Adviser to the justice chancellor, former high-ranking health official Martin Kadai criticizes the upcoming coronavirus season preparedness plan for lack of analysis of prior lessons but commends the plan's focus on avoiding restrictions.
Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) last week presented the cabinet with the upcoming COVID-19 season preparedness plan that prescribes maintaining maximum openness. The government holds three risk scenarios to be possible: mild, severe and a new pandemic the first of which is currently held to be the most likely.
Kadai said on the "Vikerhommik" radio morning show on Monday that he would have liked to see analysis of lessons learned in the document. "There is no general and independent analysis. What bothered me about the document is that while scenarios have been given, there is no reasoning provided, no risk or likelihood analyses – in terms of how likely different scenarios are to manifest. It would be sensible to explain these things to people," Kadai offered.
Martin Kadai, who worked as head of the Health Board's emergency medicine department during the first wave of the coronavirus, said that all scenarios are theoretically possible, while the likeliest is that COVID-19 is transitioning into a seasonal viral infection, which is how we should approach it.
He said that comparing the virus to the flu is not far off. "It never was, while the comparison is especially apt now because if the virus will stay in circulation, continue to mutate, we can easily compare it to the similar characteristics of the flu."
Kadai praised the plan's main goal of keeping society open and avoiding restrictions. "To survive a viral season as painlessly and with as little damage as possible, conditions need to be created and people motivated to follow them and act responsibly," the expert said, giving the examples of vaccination and staying home when sick, which he suggested should be a behavioral norm.
Kadai also described as positive the plan of switching from mass testing to a necessity-based approach or only testing people for the virus if the patient's treatment or other activities require it.
Vaccination less of a priority heading into summer
Talking about coronavirus vaccination, Kadai suggested waiting for the fall as the next high season of the virus as recommendations concerning the necessity of additional booster shots should be in by then. "There are inconsistencies today, whereas, just like with the flu, it is sensible to vaccinate immediately before the peak season," he said, adding that he does not hold vaccination to be crucial heading into summer. "But it will land back on the agenda in fall."
It is very likely that immunization of people in risk groups will remain a priority as the coronavirus is changeable and able to bypass immunity. The current Omicron strain of the virus has developed subvariants, with Kadai suggesting it is sensible to expect more.
"Vaccines developed against a specific strain might not remain relevant or work with the advent of new variants. However, available vaccines are still very effective at preventing severe illness and death. Vaccines have not become less effective in that sense," Kadai emphasized, adding that the risk groups have also stayed the same since the pandemic began: elderly people and those with certain chronic conditions.
Editor: Marcus Turovski