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Helsinki, Espoo offer early Covid boosters for work or study abroad

Finland's capital city noted that leisure travel was not an acceptable reason to get vaccinations ahead of schedule.

Kortti ensimmäisen koronarokotuksen jälkeen, Jätkäsaaren rokotuspiste, Helsinki, 19.6.2021.
Finland's Covid vaccination card. The standard period between first and second jabs is 12 weeks. Image: Jari Kovalainen / Yle
Yle News

The cities of Helsinki and Espoo plan to offer booster doses of Covid vaccines earlier than the usual 12-week period to residents who need them for international travel to work or study.

"The vaccine [schedule] is administered on an individual basis," said Sanna Svahn, Espoo's basic security director.

The city will begin offering early booster shots to workers or students who are headed out of the country in just over a week, she explained, saying that the city was responding to requests from residents who said they needed the jabs ahead of the normal schedule.

Svahn said the rest of metropolitan Helsinki, including the cities of Vantaa and Kauniainen, would also like push forward jabs for this group.

However, Yle was unable to get confirmation from those cities about such plans by Thursday afternoon.

Leisure travel not a reason for early boosters

Meanwhile, the City of Helsinki has announced that it will offer early second Covid jabs to people who will work or study abroad for a period of at least three months, adding that family members of such individuals who are 16 years of age and older could also get the booster shots ahead of schedule if they plan to accompany the student or worker.

The city said that people wishing to get earlier booster shots would need to register on its vaccination waiting list and that it was not possible for people to choose their own vaccination appointment times.

In its announcement, the City of Helsinki also said those travelling for leisure were not being accepted to get boosters ahead of schedule.

Meanwhile, Espoo said it would specify the criteria needed for early second doses after the Midsummer holiday but similarly noted that leisure travel was not a valid reason.

The City of Tampere already set up a waiting list for accelerated booster shots for work or study reasons at the beginning of this month.

THL: Interval should not be excessively shortened

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) does not want to interfere with municipalities' decisions to shorten the period between vaccinations, according to the institute's vaccine specialist Mia Kontio.

If municipalities decide to do so, they certainly can. Our basic principle is that the interval period should only be shortened for medical reasons," Kontio said.

Changing the vaccination schedule at the national level would not be possible, as there was not an adequate supply of vaccines to do so, she explained.

Kontio noted that the interval should not be excessively shortened, saying that the three-week interval recommendation by vaccine manufacturer Pfizer was not optimal.

"In any case, it should not be shortened to less than eight weeks, because many studies show there is significant benefit if the interval is longer than what Pfizer, for example, suggests," Kontio explained.

According to Espoo's basic security director Svahn, the city has an adequate supply to expedite the wait between jabs for residents needing to do so.

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