At today’s remote-participation sitting, members of the Riigikogu Urmas Reinsalu, Mihhail Lotman, Sven Sester, Helir-Valdor Seeder and Tarmo Kruusimäe submitted an interpellation concerning the organisation of vaccination (No. 65) to Minister of Health and Labour Tanel Kiik.
In the interpellators’ words, information on the organisation of vaccination is necessary in order to get an insight at parliament’s level of the country’s policy in procuring vaccines and the amount of vaccines in stock. The interpellators also thought that it was important to clarify the issues of the responsibility related to vaccination. In addition, they wished the Minister of Health and Labour to present his vision regarding the most acute problems related to vaccination. They also inquired about the vaccination certificate and travelling to Finland, and wanted to know if Estonia supported the implementation of mandatory licences within the framework of the WTO agreement.
In his reply, Tanel Kiik gave an overview of the supplies and said that Estonia was participating in the process of joint procurement of vaccines and Estonia was a member of the steering committee with other countries where distribution plans as well as new agreements and organisational issues were discussed. “Of course we are constantly kept ‘on board’ there,” he said.
The minister added that Estonia had also made various communications of its own both at Prime Minister’s level and at health ministers’ level in January and in March, and had likewise written separately to the European Commissioner on the subject of Pfizer/BioNTech doses. “We also made a joint communication with the Nordic and Baltic countries on 15 January. That was the only period when we became seriously concerned about Pfizer/BioNTech supplies. The supplies were reduced to a certain extent and we wanted to make sure that they were restored as soon as possible, and they were in fact restored,” Kiik said.
In the minister’s words, the management and organisation of vaccination falls primarily within the area of government of the Ministry of Social Affairs, but the entire Government, different ministries, local governments and the private sector are cooperating. “The Government is aiming to provide to everyone who wishes free vaccination close to their home gradually from May or during May. We are on schedule with this. The vaccination opportunity, the opportunity to register for vaccination has been opened gradually. Tonight it will be opened to the remaining age groups,” Kiik explained. “It can be said that everyone who wishes will receive primary protection during the second quarter and their second jab during the summer months,” he added. Kiik noted that the aim was to achieve a 70-per cent coverage with two vaccine doses among the adult population by the end of this summer, that is, by autumn.
As for vaccination coverage, the minister also said that the level of around 65 per cent had been achieved in the 70 plus age group, and added to this were the people who had recovered from the disease but who had not yet been vaccinated.
As for the WTO agreement, minister Kiik said that the main concern with regard to the scarcity of vaccines was not so much connected with intellectual property but indeed with production capacity and production capability. In his words, this is the main problem and challenge both in Europe and elsewhere.
The minister was also asked about the recent problems in the digital appointment system, where login had been disrupted due to a large number of login requests and people had had to wait in a queue. Tanel Kiik explained that, in his opinion, the digital queue was better than a live queue. “Having a digital waiting list that displays to the person the time remaining until they are granted access and the number of people in queue before them is a significantly better solution than telling people to join a current queue and waiting to see how many of them get a vaccine and how many fail to get it.”
Tanel Kiik also commented on the vaccination of emergency service workers and noted that emergency service workers inevitably came into contact with very many people of very vulnerable health. “Indeed, nothing can help definitively mitigate such infection risks, but vaccination definitely helps manage such risks significantly, and this decision is not an ‘arbitrary or discretionary decision’ but it really follows a thorough analysis,” Kiik said. He specified that, in this case, there had been a meeting with the Labour Inspectorate, conversations had been held with the workers and alternatives had been considered and, by now, around five per cent of the workers had not used the vaccination opportunity.
Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) and Mart Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) took part in the debate.
Minister of the Interior Kristian Jaani replied to the interpellation concerning the suppression of peaceful demonstrations against the Government (No. 67) and Minister of Defence Kalle Laanet replied to the interpellation concerning the weakening of the Estonian national defence (No. 76), submitted by members of the Riigikogu.
The sitting ended at 7.14 p.m.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)
The video recording of the sitting will be available on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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