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Marin: Vaccine roll out is a "marathon, not a sprint"

In her first interview of 2021, the PM spoke about Finland’s vaccination process and the possible need for tighter restrictions.

File photo of Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has acknowledged that the roll out of the coronavirus vaccinations has been slower than expected, but this should not be considered a failure on the part of either Finnish or European authorities.

"Vaccinations have only just begun, and only in the longer term can we assess how successful Finland and other countries in Europe were," Marin said during her first media interview of the new year. "Personally, I would like the pace of vaccination to be faster, but I would not conclude at this point that it has failed in its entirety."

The Prime Minister said that, in her opinion, the vaccination process is "a marathon, not a sprint" and vaccinations in Finland have progressed in line with the current strategy.

"It will probably be the summer before we achieve comprehensive vaccine protection for the entire population. It is also not enough to succeed in Finland alone, but to succeed everywhere," Marin added.

Finland and other EU countries have so far only received a fraction of the expected doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has delayed the roll out.

Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (STM) Kirsi Varhila told Yle on Saturday that one reason for this is populous countries such as the USA and India have been faster in procuring vaccines than the EU.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) had previously estimated that up to 20,000 vaccinations per week could be carried out in Finland during January.

Another estimate suggested that Finland was expecting to receive up to 50,000 vaccine doses per week throughout the first month of 2021.

"It should be remembered that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is given in two doses. When 100,000 vaccines enter the country, 50,000 people can be vaccinated. We also expect other vaccine manufacturers to receive marketing authorisations [for their vaccine candidates] and through that we will be able to accelerate the pace," Marin said.

Government pondering tighter restrictions

Marin also expressed concern that new strains of the coronavirus, one which was recently identified in the UK and another variant found in South Africa, have been detected in Finland.

Finland's current strategy for curbing the spread of coronavirus may need to be re-examined and updated if a new, more contagious form of the virus begins to spread in Europe, the PM said.

"It must be carefully considered whether it is possible for us to introduce stronger restrictive measures and strive to keep the infection rates in Finland as low as possible. If we choose such a strategy, it should definitely be accompanied by much stricter border health security," Marin said, adding that the government has discussed the coronavirus situation over the past few days and asked for estimates of how the new virus variant will affect the current strategy.

"We have addressed the issue and we will be receiving more information, on the basis of which we may be able to update our strategy. We need more information on the extent to which there is already a variant in Europe and whether it is in Finland as well. In addition, we need information on how the virus spreads to younger age groups," Marin added.

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