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Vaccination situation better than widely thought, expert says

Finland's target is to vaccinate two million people by May Day.

Coronavirus vaccines were administered to high-risk groups and people born between 1952 and 1956 in Lohja on 17 February. Image: Petteri Bülow / Yle

The situation with coronavirus vaccinations is not nearly as bad as might seem based on the public debate, according to Sirpa Rinta, Director of Pharma Industry Finland (PIF), which looks after the interests of pharmaceutical companies.

The Finnish government has faced criticism over the slow pace of the vaccine rollout, and there have been issues with vaccine procurement.

According to Rinta, however, people do not understand that it is a long road from marketing authorisation to the actual distribution of vaccines, as the planning and production phases require their own permitting procedures.

She noted that the pharmaceutical industry, citizens and decision-makers speak a slightly different language.

"It is challenging to get a true understanding of how vaccine production is linked to marketing authorisations and schedules. Marketing authorisations are based on efficacy and safety studies, but launching a production line is a completely different matter. At the moment, it is still in its beginning stages," Rinta said.

She said that she has a positive outlook on the future of the coronavirus vaccine, and that Finland's goal is to vaccinate two million people by May Day.

As of Monday, approximately 5.2 percent of the population had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest data from the National Institute for Health and Welfare of Finland (THL).

So far, three vaccines have been authorised in the EU: Biontech and Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to decide on the marketing authorisation for a fourth vaccine in the near future.

"We are now in an unusual situation, when the marketing authorisation has been granted very quickly. Normally, the process takes a long time. With the coronavirus vaccines, the focus has been on just one question: can the vaccine prevent serious illness? Further studies on the vaccine's efficacy in patients of different ages and at different doses are still ongoing," Rinta said.

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