The government has approved a proposal of the Ministry of Social Affairs to provide financial support to social welfare institutions according to the vaccination rate among their employees and the provision of booster shots to residents.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas says that with the COVID infection rate rising, heightened attention must once again be turned to critical sites in order to protect the most vulnerable risk groups. “The government considers it very important to motivate nursing homes with additional support so that employees dealing with people in care are vaccinated and to stop the virus from finding new victims in such establishments,” she said.
Support to the value of 120 euros will be paid for every fully vaccinated employee on the condition that at least 90% of the institute’s staff are fully vaccinated. A nursing home can increase this amount by 50-90% if it also reaches the recommended target level in providing residents with booster shots. In this case, support will be provided for every employee in the range of 180-228 euros. The minimum amount of support per institution will be 1200 euros. The total value of the support measure is 823,728 euros.
“Our aim is to achieve as high a rate of vaccination in as many social welfare institutions as possible,” explained Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo. “The number of COVID hotspots that have emerged in such places in recent weeks is alarming. As at the end of last week, the Health Board was monitoring 19 institutions with a total of 483 residents and staff.” Minister Riisalo stressed that the support measure is designed to raise the overall level of COVID protection in social welfare institutions. “Of the 198 such institutions we have in Estonia, 116 of them have yet to meet the 90% rate of vaccination,” she pointed out.
Starting in October, booster shots will be offered to those over the age of 65 for whom more than six months has passed since they were originally vaccinated. Minister Riisalo says it is important that nursing homes administer booster shots to their residents as quickly as possible. “We saw back in spring how useful vaccinating the residents of nursing homes was in limiting outbreaks of the virus, which is why it falls to us now to protect those most vulnerable with booster shots,” she said, adding that employees of social welfare institutions also form part of the risk group.
Nursing home staff and residents have had the opportunity to get themselves inoculated against COVID since the start of the year, meaning that for the majority, half a year has gone by since they were first vaccinated.
According to the data of the Social Insurance Board, welfare institutions offering 24-hour care in Estonia employ 4150 people, including 2416 care workers, while institutions offering private care services employ 1042 employees, of whom 47 are care workers.
Applicants and their applications will be evaluated by the Social Insurance Board, involving the Labour Inspectorate, the Health Insurance Fund, the Health Board, Statistics Estonia and the Tax and Customs Board where necessary. The regulation regarding the payment of the support will be able to be implemented by the Minister of Social Protection once the Act on Amendments to the State Budget Act 2021 is passed. Applications are likely to open in December, with evaluation, approval and payments taking place on an ongoing basis thereafter.