Minister at EU meeting: Vaccination always best tool in combating pandemic

Health Minister Tanel Kiik (Center) in ETV's 'Terevisioon' studio.
Health Minister Tanel Kiik (Center) in ETV's 'Terevisioon' studio. Source: ERR

The arrival of the Omicron variant makes vaccination against Covid as crucial as ever, health minister Tanel Kiik (Center) says, while the arrival of vaccine products suitable for children and progress with booster doses add to this importance.

Kiik, who was in Brussels earlier in the week for a meeting of EU health ministers and experts, said that "Vaccination is and will always be the best tool for combating the pandemic."

"Vaccination doesn't always prevent infection but it helps reduce cases of severe illness and death, manifold," Kiik added.

"Estonia's data also shows clearly that thanks to vaccination, the number and share of Covid patients who needed hospital treatment during the third wave fell, even though society was much more open than it had been during earlier waves," the minister went on, according to a ministry press release.

Kiik also underscored the importance of cooperation in joint EU procurement of medicines and in curbing the spread of new virus variants, particularly the Omicron strain, and the impending arrival of vaccine products suitable for children aged under 12.

"When it comes to cross-border health crises, we can only be successful if we engage in international cooperation. Rapid joint reaction to new virus strains, procurement of medicines, medical devices and other equipment needed in an emergency as well as issues regarding the vaccination of at-risk groups and the broader population are all important for preparing for future waves and also for new health crises," Kiik continued.

The European Commission has made a proposal to establish nine months as the term of validity of vaccination certificates. The Commission builds on recommendations by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), according to which booster doses should be weighed six month after the first vaccination course.

"Estonia supports the establishment of a common period of validity of nine months, which helps protect people's health and prevent needless confusion and problems during travel. The EU's Covid certificate is an important tool for keeping the society open at a domestic level as well as for safer organization of cross-border travel," the minister added.

Estonia also needs to make preparations for a fourth Covid wave, Kiik said.

This was particularly relevant as the holiday season nears and given Estonia's relatively low level of vaccination coverage; at the same time, booster doses for those already vaccinated are to be encouraged, he said.

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) meeting took place in Brussels, Belgium, Monday, December 6 and Tuesday, December 7.

The EU law on adequate minimum wages, its draft law on pay transparency, and the promotion of gender equality in Europe were also all on the table at Tuesday's meeting, BNS reports.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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