Health Minister: 70% vaccination by fall no longer realistic

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Considering the current level of vaccination activity, which has decreased in June, it does not seem realistic to achieve the 70% coverage target required for herd immunity by autumn, the Minister of Health Daniels Pavļuts ("Development / About!") admitted to Latvian Radio June 28.

While insisting he remained optimistic, the current waning interest in vaccination did not provide confidence that 70% of the population would be vaccinated at the end of the remaining two summer months. He urged people to overcome their concerns and not listen to disinformation on social networks, and to go to vaccination centers.

"We need to get vaccinated so that in the fall when we get to the schools returning, we don't need to reintroduce restrictions," Pavļuts urged.

Having waited so long for the loosening of epidemiological rules for the summer it would be very good if these could be maintained in the fall as well, he said.

The minister noted that there are currently large stocks of vaccines available for immediate use, in contrast with the situation a few months ago when Latvia was scrambling for supplies to meet demand. About half a million doses are currently available.

Pavļuts admitted that there is no reason to believe that the virus will not return in the autumn. He also predicted that over time, new cases of Covid-19 would be caused by a worrying 'Delta' variant, the spread of which the specialists of the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC) are currently trying to delay by tracking all cases.

However, looking at the experience of other countries, Pavļuts did not rule out that the number of Delta cases could increase in the summer, referring to studies in Great Britain which suggest that the Delta variant is about 2.5 times more contagious than the base variant. However he also stressed that current vaccines are also effective against the Delta mutation in the virus.

Pavļuts said that vaccinations have been started for all seniors over the age of 80 in their places of residence, changing the vaccination strategy to get closer to the people.

So far 509,000 people have completed a full course of Covid-19 vaccination in Latvia. 

Speaking to Latvian Radio later in the day, infectologist Uga Dumpis estimated that the Delta variant could be dominant in Latvia within a month.

"We know it will cause an outbreak, but the extent will depend on us and our ability to vaccinate," he said, adding that "vaccine apathy" during the summer risked a worsening situation in the fall.

He said that the most important thing now is to get seniors and patients with chronic diseases vaccinated. As an example, the infectologist cited the situation in Denmark and Iceland, where the coverage of senior vaccination exceeds 90%. 

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