When the first vaccines appeared two years ago, the European Commission organized a single procurement for the Member States, with doses allocated proportionally to the population. Specialists calculated the optimal amount of vaccines, but the countries chose how many and what vaccines to book from the amount theoretically available.
Latvia then chose to take everything available. It is now backfiring. People vaccinate little, but vaccines continue to come. Four times more vaccines will be delivered to Latvia next year than would be needed.
This year, the highest number of vaccinations was in January – 231 thousand, in February – 65 thousand and then it declined with each month, with the lowest point reached in June – 3.5 thousand. In September and October, when the vaccine against the Omicron subtype appeared, interest in vaccination increased slightly.
“At a given point, yes, we see the pace of vaccination declining. But it is not just a problem for our country, it is also a problem for other European countries that the pace of vaccination is declining. In Latvia, it can be seen more clearly,” said Larisa Savrasova, head of the Disease Prevention and Control Center (SPKC)'s Infection Disease Monitoring and Immunization Division.
Thailand, Australia, Algeria, Suriname, Guatemala, Ecuador, Djibouti, Libya – these are only some of the forty countries to which Latvia offered to buy the vaccines supplied and unused. They all refused the offer, or even didn't respond it at all, probably because donated vaccines are also available.
Latvia also decided to donate. By mid-December 2022, two and a half million doses worth €22 million have been committed.
Major shipments have gone through the COVAX program as well as directly to Nicaragua, Egypt, Georgia, Benin, Kosovo, Kenya, and other countries.
Although there are already a lot of vaccines, they will be further delivered.
Former Health Minister Daniels Pavļuts (Development/For!) said: “Yes, vaccines have been purchased for several years, I recall that we have already spent a significant number of vaccines. How many residents of Latvia will choose to vaccinate is an undeterminable, unpredictable amount. The only thing we can really say correctly is that we really know clearly how many people are in Latvia, but it is about the only thing that is clear. I believe that ensuring what is needed – with a reserve, a quantity of vaccines, has been a sensible choice of responsible politicians, just as in other countries of the European Union.”
According to the Ministry of Health, the total value of vaccines delivered so far this autumn was EUR 92.7 million. About half has been spent. However, the contract binds Latvia to buy all the reserved vaccines, with a further value of around 75 million (a total of EUR 168,485,155).
A similar problem has occurred in other countries of the European Union. There are talks with each other and also at European Commission level with the vaccine manufacturer about changing supply contracts.
With Pfizer, the three-year agreement still in force for the following year has not yet been agreed. If the conditions cannot be changed, it is already clear that nearly two million vaccines will be delivered to Latvia next year – one per capita, four times more than would be needed if the morbidity situation is similar to that of the moment.
Dace Zavadska, Chair of the State Council of Immunization said: “Such fatigue from vaccination and all Covid-19 information is felt by the general public, both for seniors and young people, including medics. And here's the place where we have to pull together, discard our feelings, and focus on those who remain at risk and danger."
A booster vaccine is currently recommended for risk groups: pregnant, severely ill, elderly.
The SPKC estimates that for a vaccinated person the risk of dying from Covid will be reduced by 14 times, with the possibility of being hospitalized almost nine times. However, the first booster vaccine was received by less than half of seniors (46.2%). Then nine percent or 35 thousand seniors received the second booster available this autumn.
On the one hand, Covid is no longer a huge problem. But at the same time, dozens of people are still dying every month of this disease. For example, thirty-nine people died in November, twenty-nine of whom were unvaccinated. The vaccination rate for seniors, particularly those with support vaccines against the Covid, is still too low and is significantly behind Western European countries.