Hanna Nohynek, a chief physician at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), reacted at a news conference in Helsinki on Tuesday, 1 December 2020. (Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

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THE VACCINATIONS of Finns against the new coronavirus may begin in January, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

The daily newspaper wrote yesterday that health care professionals, elderly people and people at risk of developing serious symptoms will be the first groups to receive one of the promising vaccines that are being fast-tracked to the market.

The first marketing authorisations could be granted some time between Christmas and New Year’s, according to Marjo-Riitta Helle, the director of the authorisation unit at Finnish Medicines Agency (Fimea)

“The vaccines will arrive a couple of weeks after securing the marketing authorisation. We’re now waiting for these authorisations before proceeding to the next phase of the consideration,” Sari Ekholm, the chief physician at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, said in a press conference in Helsinki.

A final decision on the market introduction will then be made by the Finnish government.

The arrival of the vaccines also depends to some extent on the logistics chains of pharmaceutical manufacturers and their ability to deliver the vaccine to buyers. The Pfizer-Biontech vaccine, for example, must not be removed from a temperature of -70°C more than four times during the transport process.

The vaccine must be administered twice, with the second dose administered a few weeks after the first. The practical arrangements will fall on the shoulders of municipalities and hospital districts in Finland.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is already evaluating four vaccines for conditional marketing authorisations. The European Commission has an agreement to acquire about 1.3 billion doses of vaccines from six developers, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer-Biontech, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna.

Finland is set to take delivery of 1.23 per cent of the vaccines, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

All of the vaccines have been developed exceptionally quickly, in less than 10 months’ time. They will continue to be evaluated and monitored based on information obtained following their roll-outs, such as reports of side effects and new scientific findings.

Hanna Nohynek, a chief physician at THL, said the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine appears to be safe in light of preliminary data.

“The efficacy is excellent in these preliminary results. It’s uncommon that we see vaccines with an efficacy as high as this,” she stated, reminding that the results should not be interpreted as official scientific results.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT