A nurse prepares a syringe with the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine in Emile Muller Hospital in Mulhouse, France, on 8 January 2021. (Sebastien Bozon – AFP/Lehtikuva)

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HOSPITAL DISTRICTS in Finland no longer need to set aside half of each vaccine shipment for second injections, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) on Friday revealed, in what appears to be a sign of optimism about vaccine shipments, that it has amended its instructions for hospital districts to make sure as many as possible are vaccinated early on.

The instructions previously stated that hospital districts should store half of each vaccine shipment to make sure the second injection can be administered on time.

“We are confident that there’ll be enough doses. It’s important that we can speed up the vaccinations,” Hanna Nohynek, a chief physician at THL, commented to Helsingin Sanomat on Friday.

A decision on the issue was made last week and the detailed instructions presented to hospital districts on Thursday, 7 January, according to Mia Kontio, a senior expert at THL.

“We were waiting until the first couple of shipments had arrived as promised,” she stated to the daily newspaper. “The instructions state that the previously delivered [doses] should be administered by the time the next shipment arrives. The initial thinking was that the second dose would be set aside, but we discussed it this week and [decided] there’s no need for that.”

“The instructions now state that the districts should use all the vaccine doses they have as quickly as possible.”

THL is not concerned that the decision could result in the second injection being delayed so much that it would compromise the efficacy of the vaccine, according to Nohynek. The Pfizer-Biontech vaccine should be administered in two doses – the latter no earlier than three weeks and no later than six weeks after the first.

“There’s the possibility to delay the administration of the [second] dose, even though we do hope that the second dose is given around the three-week mark, if at all possible,” said Nohynek.

She also highlighted that the first dose alone offers relatively sound protection against the new coronavirus, while the second dose ensures that protection is effective and long-lasting.

“Published studies on efficacy indicate that the protective efficacy of the vaccine was over 50 per cent two weeks after the first dose. The protection may even be close to 90 per cent before the second dose,” she told.

The Moderna and Astra Zeneca vaccines are also administered in two doses. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on 6 January announced it is recommending that a conditional market authorisation be granted for the former, a recommendation that was heeded by the European Commission.

No date has yet been set for discussing the vaccine developed by Astra Zeneca and Oxford University.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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