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Coronavirus vaccine delivery "slower than expected"

Finland received a delivery of about 40,000 doses on Wednesday, with vaccinations set to continue next week.

Pfizer-Biontechsin koronavirusrokote lähikuvassa.
BioNTech-Pfizer's vaccine is currently the only one authorised for use in EU countries. Image: Sven Simon / AOP
Yle News

Finland is among a number of EU countries to express disappointment with how slowly Europe is receiving deliveries of the coronavirus vaccine.

Vaccines in the EU are distributed based on head of population, and Finland has received the correct share of the doses that have so far been delivered, according to Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (STM) Kirsi Varhila.

However, the overall amount received is much less than anticipated.

Initially, Finland expected between 100,000 and 300,000 doses to be delivered to the country over the Christmas period, but only 10,000 doses arrived in the first batch.

"It must be said that it is slow compared to what was originally thought. There was talk of hundreds of thousands, not tens of thousands. This is considerably slower than expected," Varhila said.

Last Wednesday, about 40,000 more doses arrived in Finland, with vaccinations set to continue next week.

"Progress is slow with such small amounts," added Mia Kontio, a specialist at the Finnish institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

What is causing the delay in vaccine deliveries?

Currently, only one vaccine -- developed by Pfizer-BioNTech -- has received the necessary approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for distribution across the EU.

This is a factor in the delayed deliveries, according to Uğur Şahin, the head of the German biotechnology company BioNTech which developed the vaccine in conjunction with American pharmaceutical firm Pfizer, as EU countries assumed many different vaccines would be available at once.

"The assumption was that many other companies would come up with their vaccines," Şahin told the German newspaper Der Spiegel. "It would seem that the impression was: 'We’ll get enough, it won’t be so bad, and we have this under control.' It surprised me."

EU countries placed orders with a number of different manufacturers, while other countries in the vaccine market placed bigger orders with a smaller number of manufacturers.

"What was promised to the EU did not come, and the vaccines have gone elsewhere instead. It seems that the USA is a quicker buyer than Europe. In addition, countries with big populations are also starting to join the market, such as India," Varhila noted.

The EMA’s scientific committee for human medicines (CHMP) is set to meet next week to discuss the authorisation approval of Moderna’s vaccine candidate, of which the EU Executive has already ordered 80 million doses.

The EMA is also currently assessing data on the AstraZeneca and Oxford University vaccine as part of a rolling review, but the final authorisation is not expected for a number of weeks.

"The EU wants to be secure and confident, on the basis of documented evidence, that each vaccine is safe. The marketing authorisation will be granted once the documents have been reviewed and approved," THL's Kontio told Yle.

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