Vaccination in the COVID-19 pandemic reached a new level on Monday when Marek Seer was appointed head of a nationwide vaccination organization working group. Seer, who has served on the board of the Tartu University Hospital and headed the Valga Hospital, is tasked with achieving 70 percent immunization coverage through mass vaccination campaigns as soon as possible. The government is set to decide the vaccination management structure at its sitting today.
How well are you prepared for the job?
I would not have accepted it had I felt unprepared. I have been part of the vaccination effort management group through Medical Headquarters South. I suppose I caught someone’s eye being active there.
What are your tasks?
The goal is to operatively move forward with vaccination as a process. Vaccines that arrive in Estonia need to be distributed between healthcare service providers. The latter need to be empowered in regions where immunization has not properly taken off. I will need to coordinate the work of healthcare institutions when it comes to immunization.
How will you empower and help regions, such as Ida-Viru County, to catch up?
Let us look at Ida-Viru County or parts of Harju County – we can identify problems, such as lack of manpower, and coordinate assistance from other healthcare partners. Whether we’re talking about hospitals or private service providers.
Are private medical service providers still in this game?
Undoubtedly. It would not be feasible without them. The main burden has fallen on family doctors and hospitals and only then on private clinics until now, while all remain partners in this process.
How many mass vaccination centers will there be?
I cannot say today whether we will have 400-500 or whether 200 will suffice. It will become clear over the next few weeks in which geographical locations mass vaccination will take place. We will gauge the need for such venues. Everything that has been done until now needs to be put to use.
Where will these centers be?
All the players remain in the game and these centers do not need to be separate locations. It will be the local hospital in smaller places, the family medicine center in others. Larger settlements could see custom solutions similar to what we had during vaccination drives. The sports facility on Sõle street in Tallinn could be one such venue.
Can you give people orders?
I believe that healthcare service providers are all independent legal persons. We are working to prevent and treat diseases. I believe that having sensible communication will mean no orders or bans are needed as we are all sensible people. Rather, the shortcoming has been that we have lacked a single person to talk to all of them. I trust everything will work in mutual communication.
Are you also tasked with talking to the public?
Indeed. The public needs to be well-informed always.
Will you have help?
I will not be working alone. I will dedicate tomorrow to assembling my team. I have a draft in place. The team will include a maximum of ten other persons.
When will your plans be ready?
The plan will be concertized and complemented as we go, and it will take some time. Everything will depend on vaccine amounts in the end. Receiving hundreds of thousands of doses will necessitate one plan, while taking delivery of smaller quantities another.
Is that to say the activity plan needs to be quite flexible?
Yes, our approach is flexible as we are still vaccinating older people today, while we are now on the threshold of moving on to the next age group where we will need to reconsider our steps. We will be able to say what will happen once we have certainty regarding vaccine deliveries.
When could a critical part of people be vaccinated in Estonia?
Should deliveries hold, we could reach 70 percent coverage in terms of the first shot being administered in June or July. We will only be able to say for sure upon doses physically arriving in Estonia as promises of deliveries cannot be fully relied on.