Finland is changing its vaccine guidance to allow hospitals to use all vaccines that arrive in the country, rather than saving half of them for second doses.
Half of the vaccines arriving in Finland will no longer need to be saved for the second dose for those who have already been vaccinated. Instead, the aim is to get as many people as possible vaccinated with the first dose, while relying on future deliveries for second doses.
Up until now, half of the delivered vaccine doses have been placed in storage to guarantee each patient gets a dose.
"According to results of an efficacy study published by BioNtech-Pfizer, the protective effect of the vaccine is already over 50 percent two weeks after the first dose, and in some cases it's close to 90 percent," said Hanna Nohynek, Senior Physician with the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).
"This suggests that even from the first dose there for at least three weeks, possibly six weeks, that effect is very good," she added.
However, in order for the effects of the vaccine to be long-lasting, a second dose is still required and that will be administered out of future deliveries.
"According to the marketing authorisation, the second dose will be given at the earliest after three weeks and at the latest after 42 days," Nohynek stated.
After initial enthusiasm about the vaccine rollout, the slow pace of vaccinations has become a concern.
Earlier this week, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Department of Health and Welfare estimated that vaccinating the entire Finnish population against coronavirus will take until the end of the year, at least.
The bottleneck in the initial phase has been mostly due to the fact that the number of vaccines received in Finland is lower than anticipated. Vaccines in the EU are distributed based on countries' population size.
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.
"We have advised hospital districts to get as many people as possible vaccinated as soon as possible. Therefore, every dose of the coronavirus vaccine currently arriving in Finland should be administered as soon as possible. [This means] the pace of vaccinations will increase if all the vaccines that are currently coming to the country can be used instead of being stored away," Nohynek stated.
"We are confident that we will receive additional doses on a weekly basis, which will allow a second dose to be administered at a later date."