Prime minister: I do not know whether Anneli Ott is vaccinated

Prime minister Kaja Kallas and minister of health and labour Tanel Kiik. PHOTO: Tairo Lutter

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform Party) tells Postimees in an interview that she does not know whether Minister of Culture Anneli Ott (Center Party) is vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Kallas said that Ott’s position does not affect the government’s work and that the cabinet remains united in its message that vaccination is necessary to keep society open. The PM does not expect Ott to resign.

Do you have an overview of the vaccination status of people in your cabinet and other close associates?

Only as far as people have told me. I have a general overview of the vaccination status of people I work with. Members of the government were all vaccinated together, with the exception of yours truly. I will get my shot tomorrow (the PM has recovered from the coronavirus).

Do you expect members of the government to get vaccinated?

I would like it if ministers led by example by getting vaccinated. That said, if the person’s medical condition makes it impossible, that will be that. But otherwise, I prefer it if people are vaccinated.

Leading health experts say we need to invest in immunization. Popularization of vaccination requires considerable effort from you and head of the national vaccination campaign Marek Seer. However, statements by your cabinet’s culture minister have people doubting the merits of vaccination. Is it acceptable that Culture Minister Ott is sowing doubt concerning the national immunization campaign?

Yes, I am also not a fan of these statements, which subject we have broached in the government. However, the opinion a single person has no effect on decisions. The government stands united in this.

We do not know whether the culture minister is vaccinated or not, while her attitude has, according to member of the COVID-19 scientific advisory council Andero Uusberg, given vaccine doubters a representative in the government. Do you plan to react?

I have spoken to the leaders of the Center Party. I discussed how to handle these things with the health and labor minister over several hours today (Tuesday – ed.). If there is a breakdown inside the party, things need to be organized by having the right people in charge of the right topics.

There is still a certain elephant in the room. What do you plan to do about it?

Anneli Ott is not in charge of the vaccination effort or healthcare. We will talk to her, as will the heads of the Center Party and her position is not that of the party. Ott has also refrained from voicing such positions publicly in the past. I would like it if all cabinet members maintained the same line. What Ott has said is confusing, and confusion we do not need.

Could you ask her to send a clearer message?

She is not an emergency medicine specialist. The important thing is for her to spread the message that vaccination can keep Estonia open and is the only way to come out the other side of the next wave of the virus with minimal damage.

Could Ott be looking at political consequences over her statements?

I do not know whether she has health problems that make it impossible for her to get vaccinated. I would ask for a vaccination certificate as her employer if she was an emergency medical technician for whom immunization is crucial.

You are not afraid she might be or become infectious?

Of course, if she is not vaccinated, she is a danger to herself and because she can spread the virus.