People with severely weakened immune systems across Finland will be offered a third Covid-19 vaccine starting immediately.
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) is expected to issue the new recommendation on Friday, according to comments from Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (STM) doctor Taneli Puumalainen first reported by Helsingin Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun).
THL estimates that there are roughly 50,000 immunocompromised people in Finland who would receive the third dose of the vaccine. They include cancer patients and people who have received organ transplants.
"The ministry has stated that this can be done within the framework of the government decree," Puumalainen told HS.
Last week THL proposed offering third doses to immunocompromised people.
"In this group, a third dose would raise antibody levels and offer protection to the same level or at least close to the same levels as now present in healthy people," THL specialist Mia Kontio said during Thursday morning's weekly coronavirus briefing.
In August Puumalainen said that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health was in no rush to administer third doses of the jabs to the general population as the vaccines appeared to retain their effectiveness.
"There are no signs now that the efficacy would have dwindled. If monitoring indicates that booster doses are necessary, then that's how we'll proceed," Puumalainen said.
Earlier on Friday, Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS) said it was starting to offer third doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine as it races to use the jabs before they go out of date.
In a statement, HUS said it would immediately begin offering the third dose of vaccine to fully-vaccinated individuals at high risk from complications of infection as well as healthcare staff who care for Covid patients.
HUS and the Uusimaa regional coronavirus coordination group, including municipalities covered by the healthcare district, came to the joint decision on Thursday, the statement read.
HUS Pharmacy currently has 15,000 doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine in stock with an expiry date of 22 September.
"Starting the third round of vaccination before regulations enter into force is unusual, but we considered the ageing of the vaccines to be sufficient justification for this decision," said Jari Petäjä, chairman of the Uuisimaa regional coordination group.
According to Petäjä, HUS has already received verbal permission to start offering the third doses from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
The hospital district said it had worked to use the expiring vaccines as first and second doses, and had offered them to municipalities, private healthcare providers and the military. However, some 15,000 still remained in stock.
HUS said it was hoping for an "early decision" on an official third jab programme so that vaccinations could continue after the expiring bath of Moderna was used up.
The healthcare district said that the availability of vaccines in Uusimaa was "excellent", adding that the decision to begin offering third doses had no impact on the availability of first or second doses for the region's residents.