Vials of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine in Paris, France, on 11 March 2021. In Finland, 65–69-year-old people will be able to choose a messenger RNA vaccine over the AstraZeneca one as of early May, per a decision made on Wednesday by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). (Joel Saget – AFP/Lehtikuva)

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THE FINNISH INSTITUTE for Health and Welfare (THL) has decided to allow 65–69-year-olds to choose to get vaccinated against the new coronavirus with a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine over the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca as of May.

The age group has thus far been vaccinated predominantly with the vaccine by AstraZeneca.

“We do have to appreciate people’s concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine. It isn’t our goal that people decide not to take the vaccine because of these concerns,” Mia Kontio, a leading specialist at THL, stated to YLE on Wednesday.

She was referring to concerns arising from a link discovered between the vaccine and very rare cases of unusual blood clots. The majority of the clotting disorders, some of which have been fatal, have been detected in under 60-year-old vaccine recipients.

No such concerns have been linked to the messenger RNA vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer-Biontech.

Kontio on Wednesday added in a press release that the decision to allow 65–69-year-olds to choose a different vaccine was made also due to the improved availability of messenger RNA vaccines. Finland, she revealed, will next week take delivery of about 200,000 doses of the vaccine by Pfizer-Biontech, with the number set to rise to 320,000 by the end of June.

Shipments of the Moderna vaccine, in turn, are to range between 35,000–40,000 doses as of early May.

She specified that 65–69-year-olds with no underlying health conditions predisposing them to serious forms of the coronavirus disease can choose a messenger RNA vaccine as of early May, when the majority of people at higher risk of serious symptoms due to age or health will have been vaccinated.

“This may become reality a bit later in smaller municipalities due to the availability of mRNA vaccines,” she added.

YLE on Wednesday highlighted that AstraZeneca vaccines will consequently be only administered to people who are willing to take them.

“Right at this moment, we don’t know what will happen to the [vaccines]. We haven’t gotten any confirmation on the delivery volumes of the AstraZeneca vaccine for May – or even for next week,” Kontio stated to YLE.

THL also stated that it will continue to recommend that the vaccine be only administered to over 65-year-olds, as recommended by the National Vaccination Expert Group (KRAR).

“Given he current epidemiological situation and progress of vaccinations, everyone has an opportunity to get vaccinated relatively quickly. Lowering the age limit would not have accomplished the kind of health benefits that would have meant lowering is recommended in light of the possible adverse effects caused by the vaccine,” explained Hanna Nohynek, a chief physician at THL.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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