TALLINN – In order to reduce the numbers of contacts of unvaccinated conscripts, the issuance of leave passes to conscripts who have refrained from vaccination has been limited to one per month in the Estonian defense forces.
According to the Estonian defense forces, such a restriction reduces the number of potential contacts and the possibility of unvaccinated conscripts spreading the virus. Unvaccinated personnel are also obliged to more frequently test for COVID-19, spokespeople for the defense forces said on Monday.
Some 2,000 young people started conscript service in the Estonian defense forces last week, almost half of whom were already vaccinated for COVID-19 when they arrived, and the majority of non-vaccinated conscripts were ready to get a jab when they started their conscript service.
In total, 93 percent of the soldiers who entered the service have been vaccinated against COVID or are ready to be vaccinated.
"The defense forces hope that all our service personnel understand the need for vaccination against the coronavirus to protect their health and that of their fellow servicemen and women," said Lt. Col. Targo Lusti, chief medical officer of the defense forces. "Vaccination is necessary to keep our servicemen and women healthy, to ensure that training continues as planned and to maintain the combat capability of the defense forces," he added.
Conscripts, active-duty personnel and employees of the defense forces are vaccinated against the coronavirus with mRNA vaccines.
The majority of conscripts who have entered the service and have requested it have received the first dose of the vaccine. All soldiers who wish to do so are expected to be vaccinated with the first dose by August.
Staff who wish not to be vaccinated must reckon with certain limitations in the context of the spread of COVID, which are primarily necessary to protect their own health and that of others.
"Last year, under conditions of COVID, there were periods when conscripts did not get leave for long periods of time and this had a direct impact on their motivation. The more vaccinated people there are in the defense forces, the less chances there are of the virus spreading, and this is the best opportunity to get back to the way of life we are used to, which includes giving leave passes and organizing visiting days, for example," said Lusti.
The conscripts who joined the service last week embarked on a 11-month training program, at the end of which they will be included in the reserve units of the defense forces.
As the first stage of training, new conscripts go through the basic soldier course, during which the individual skills of soldiers are developed. Over the course of seven weeks, conscripts learn a range of skills needed by an individual soldier, from handling a service weapon to first aid and topography.