Customers presented their coronavirus passes at the entrance of Rymy-Eetu in Helsinki on Saturday, 16 October 2021. (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)

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THE FINNISH INSTITUTE for Health and Welfare (THL) has conceded that the newly introduced coronavirus pass contains flaws.

Currently Finns who have recovered from the coronavirus disease more than six months ago and only received the first vaccine injection are unable to obtain the pass online, but they have to test negative for the virus to qualify for the pass.

The EU Digital Covid Certificate should serve as the pass. The pass can be obtained on omakanta.fi by people who have been fully vaccinated against the virus, recovered from the disease in the past six months or tested negative for the virus in the past 72 hours.

While a record of a recovery from the disease from over six months ago remains in the database, the certificate granted based on the recovery expires once six months have elapsed since the infection. Some municipalities are simultaneously not administering the second vaccine injection to people who have had the disease, forcing them to get tested to obtain the pass.

A test taken in order to obtain the pass is free only for under 18-year-olds.

“There’s a clear flaw here that as far as I know is being resolved. Information about a past disease stays on [the website], so utilising it is a technical issue,” Hanna Nohynek, a chief physician at THL, stated to YLE.

It is a question of equality, she highlighted.

“Since there are no medical grounds for the time being at least for administering a second vaccine injection to someone who has had the disease, this should be reflected also in the vaccination pass,” she stressed.

The introduction of the pass last weekend has revealed also other glitches, according to the Regional State Administrative Agency (AVI) for Southern Finland. The application used to verify the pass shows a red light also to some people with vaccine-induced immunity – to people who have already received a third vaccine injection or received the single-dose vaccine by Johnson & Johnson.

The vaccine is used in, for example, Belgium, Estonia and Spain.

The EU-issued digital certificate only recognises vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), regardless of the position of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The certificate also accepts natural immunity for no more than six months.

Nohynek on Sunday said to YLE that some fixes can be implemented domestically, but the discussions at the EU level are likely to require more time. The fixes are presently being mulled over at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

“Studies reveal that people who’ve had the coronavirus disease retain the antibodies for 6–12 months and also develop immunological memory. It has been argued that a serious form of the disease provides a stronger protection than vaccination. Time will tell whether or not that’s the case,” she stated.

It is ultimately a question of reaching an agreement.

“In Finland, you could definitely set the time to longer than six months because it’s known that the protection remains good for more than six months,” said Nohynek.

Taneli Puumalainen, a director at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, confirmed the next steps to the public broadcasting company.

“Nationally we’re trying to make it so that a past disease, whenever it was, and one vaccine dose is enough,” he wrote in an e-mail to YLE. “Even if Finland recognised one injection [for people who had the disease over six months ago], it wouldn’t mean that any other country would have to recognise it.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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