TALLINN – Responding to a misdemeanor report filed by the Foundation for the Protection of the Family and Tradition (SAPTK), the State Agency of Medicines said that even though the campaigns to increase vaccination coverage among children by means of raffles were illegal, the agency does not consider it expedient to open misdemeanor proceedings.
"In its reply, the State Agency of Medicines states that such campaigns, which were carried out by the City of Tallinn and the North Estonia Medical Center, among others, indeed run counter to laws in force -- more specifically, Section 84 Subsection 8 of the Medicines Act, which prohibits persons who do not have the right to prescribe medicines from organizing prize draws and lotteries related to medicines," the leader of SAPTK, Varro Vooglaid, told BNS.
The agency considers that offering benefits or expensive gifts to promote vaccination or to carry out vaccination-related draws is not a practical or appropriate measure to increase vaccine coverage because they influence people to make health choices for reasons other than medical or health considerations, Vooglaid said, citing the reply of the State Agency of Medicines received on Monday afternoon.
Furthermore, such a campaign must not be aimed directly or mainly at children, the agency finds.
Vooglaid noted that despite the unlawfulness of these campaigns, the State Agency of Medicines considers that it would not be expedient to initiate misdemeanor proceedings against offenders.
"The State Agency of Medicines has contacted all the organizers of vaccination promotion campaigns that we know of and has explained to the campaign organizers the requirements and prohibitions concerning the publication of such information. We have also clarified that any new campaigns must be coordinated with the State Agency of Medicines and the Health Board and that any raffles or lotteries related to vaccination should be avoided," the reply, signed by inspector Keili Kondike from the oversight department of the State Agency of Medicines, says.
The letter says that while the State Agency of Medicines understands the obligation to initiate misdemeanor proceedings against those whose campaigns have already ended, the agency, for its part, "has made every effort to put an end to the infringements and to prevent further infringements, and given the resource shortage stemming from the pandemic, the State Agency of Medicines considers it more appropriate to direct its activities to making sure that further campaigns are compliant with valid requirements, with a view to ensuring the objectivity and balance of the information provided to the public, in order to enable each person to take a carefully considered decision on vaccination, taking into account both the personal health situation and the ongoing health crisis as a whole."
As the legal basis for the decision not to initiate misdemeanor proceedings, the State Agency of Medicines refers to the section of the Code of Misdemeanor Procedure which says that when a misdemeanor report has been made concerning the commission of a misdemeanor, the proceedings authority is required, within 15 days following its receipt, to commence misdemeanor proceedings or to decide not to commence such proceedings and to notify the person who made the misdemeanor report of its decision not to commence proceedings.
Vooglaid pointed out that in reality, the State Agency of Medicines responded to SAPTK on the 32nd day after the submission of the misdemeanor report.
He also stressed that the Code of Misdemeanor Procedure sets out the principle of mandatory misdemeanor proceedings by stipulating that when the elements of a misdemeanor are revealed, the proceedings authority is required to open and conduct misdemeanor proceedings, unless the authority is convinced that the act in question is of minor importance or unless circumstances are present which preclude misdemeanor proceedings in the case in question.
"What criteria have been used to consider that attracting many children and young people to vaccinate by raffling off mobile phones, tablets, burgers and the like is a minor misdemeanor is not clear from the response from the State Agency of Medicines," Vooglaid said.
Under the Medicinal Products Act, legal persons may be fined up to 32,000 euros for violating the requirements for advertising of medicinal products.