Finland is preparing to start mass vaccinations against the coronavirus as early as mid-February.
It will be possible if the number of vaccines available in Finland starts to increase.
Much has to do with the marketing authorization for the vaccine by drug manufacturer Astra Zeneca, which will be reviewed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) next week.
- If the vaccine (Astra Zenecan) receives a marketing authorization, then Finland can get hundreds of thousands of doses of the vaccine at a fast pace, says specialist Mia Kontio from THL.
That would allow the population to start mass vaccinations within a couple of weeks.
Municipalities responsible for mass vaccinations have been tasked with preparing for large-scale vaccinations in their areas.
The municipalities have experience with influenza vaccinations, which, according to THL, can be used in the large-scale distribution of the coronary vaccine.
- Vaccine centers could be set up for mass vaccinators, for example in sports stadiums, as I understand it has been done at Tampere Ratina for the distribution of influenza vaccine, Kontio says.
According to Kontio, up to ten lane vaccine tubes can be built for the stadium, which he says is already experienced.
- And to my recollection, five-lane vaccine tubes have been implemented in Helsinki in the past, where each lane can have three vaccine points.
The interval between vaccinations is about five minutes, Kontio says.
Winter poses its own challenges for vaccination points, but Kontio believes they can be solved.
- In Finland, influenza vaccines have been given during the winter from October to January, and the interior of the Helsinki Fair Center, for example, has previously been used for mass vaccinations.
This will certainly start with higher ambition, Kontio says.
For mass vaccinations, the product of the pharmaceutical manufacturer Astra Zeneca would be used in this perspective, as it is easier to store than the first Pfizer vaccine.
- The vaccine will be stored in the refrigerator for months, Kontio says.
The protection afforded by this vaccine has been estimated to be lower than that of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines already in use, but the efficacy is still considered to be fully adequate for mass vaccinations.
Purchase prices for vaccines are reluctant to be disclosed to the public, but leaked data show that Astra Zeneca's vaccine is by far the cheapest among those who have been granted or are about to have a marketing authorization.
In Finland, vaccinations began at the end of December with injections of key people in intensive care units, from where vaccinations continued to be extended to nursing home staff and residents.
According to Kontio, the Pfizer Biontech vaccine used in the primary vaccinations is less suitable than the Astra Zeneca product for mass vaccinations, where it can be difficult to maintain a steady flow of customers at the vaccination point.
- Municipalities have to manage many practical issues, such as notifying vaccinations and making an appointment, Kontio says.
Ways of informing and whether vaccinations are arranged, for example, by appointment or in some other way, vary from municipality to municipality.
Mass vaccinations will also be significantly affected by the age recommendations that the European Medicines Agency will issue for Astra Zeneca in its marketing authorization procedure next week.
If all Finns over the age of 16 are vaccinated, nine million vaccine doses must be injected.
So far, all vaccines in sight also require a second booster dose.
- It is a multi-month effort.
It will be summer before all those who have received two vaccines, Kontio speculates.
The administration of coronary vaccinations has been slower than expected due to supply difficulties in pharmaceutical factories.