This month, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund (EHIF) began offering residents of care homes a second COVID-19 vaccine booster. Care homes, however, are seeing no big rush to vaccinate.
"We sent out a letter two weeks ago stating that they can order vaccines," said EHIF communications director Evelin Trink. "They've been ordered already. We're not in the primary vaccination period, but it's already possible to order [them]. Some care homes have ordered them, but there's not much of a push for them yet."
Trink was unable to say how many doses of COVID-19 vaccines Estonia has at the moment, but confirmed that everyone who wants to vaccinate, can.
According to the communications director, vaccinations for elderly people living in care homes will not begin at any set date. "Every care home will decide for themselves whether they will order [vaccines] right away, begin right away or sometime later," she explained.
Muhu Care Home director Aino Rummel said that they won't start vaccinating until a month from now.
"There may be a bit of confusion, as fall is approaching quickly and we have to map out care home residents — how many doses they've received, whether they've had [COVID-19]," Rummel said. "I suppose we'll start reviewing the situation in August."
The care home director is also awaiting more precise info regarding the timing of booster shots. "Previously it was 9-12 months [after having COVID-19], but currently there's some confusion about how exactly it should be," she explained. "As we had an outbreak in March — should we really be doing [boosters] six months later?"
Jaanika Luts, director of Iru Care Home in Tallinn, confirmed that they won't be rushing to vaccinate the elderly in their care right away either.
"The effects of the vaccine are short-lived," she said. "If we can extend the effects during the fall period, then why should we administer [the vaccine] over the summer? I think other care homes share this same idea."
According to Luts, Iru Care Home will begin administering COVID vaccine boosters in mid-August.
"We'll 100 percent be vaccinating, but not today, not tomorrow — so people can feel like normal life exists too," she said.
Luts also noted that one advantage their care home has is that it has its own nurses on staff, so once they do start administering shots, they'll be able to get shots in arms very quickly.
Meanwhile, Piigaste Südamekodu, a care home in Põlva County, began vaccinating their elderly a week ago.
"We've started sending consent forms to loved ones," director Ester Paap said. "Quite a lot have been returned, and many have consented."
According to Paap, vaccination and boosting efforts should be underway now.
"As COVID is actually rearing its head again, and fall is approaching, the second half of August is when people should start [vaccinating]," she said.
Editor: Aili Vahtla