As the first Comirnaty Covid vaccine shipments arrive in Finland, the vaccination of children 5-11 years of age who belong to risk groups is expected to begin this week, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).
Chief Specialist at THL, Mia Kontio, said 162,000 Covid vaccine doses for children will arrive in Finland this week, with the next delivery of 78,000 expected to arrive during the first week of next year. Kontio said decisions about additional shipments have not yet been reached.
The agency has not formally recommended vaccinations for those in the 5-11 age bracket who do not belong to a risk group, as plans for their vaccinations will be rolled out in January at the earliest.
The THL has however recommended vaccinations for 5-11 year-olds who live with immunocompromised individuals, but a broader rollout of vaccinations for kids not belonging to risk groups cannot begin until legislation about voluntary Covid vaccinations is amended.
Health authorities are awaiting further information about the safety of Covid vaccinations for kids in the age group, particularly about possible rare side effects.
According to THL's chief physician Hanna Nohynek, vaccine doses will be distributed to municipalities as they arrive in Finland, with decisions on administering the doses to be made at the local level.
Youngsters are to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine Comirnaty, according to Kontio.
"Vaccinations for children need to be distributed in a way that does not delay the vaccinations of the most vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, Kontio noted in an agency statement earlier this month.
The THL has roughly estimated that if children between the ages of 5-11 are not vaccinated, between 20-40 percent of the entire age group would be infected with coronavirus by the end of March next year, depending on the severity of the epidemic as well as the extent of containment measures.
By November of this year around five percent of 5-11 year-olds in Finland had had a coronavirus infection, out of those 33 children required hospital treatment, with stays lasting one or two days, according to the THL.
The US and Israel were the first countries to roll out Covid vaccines to 5-11 year-olds. Meanwhile, in the EU, Austria has already begun vaccinating kids in the age group, while the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Denmark have decided to do so.
Based on data from other countries, children experience similar side effects from the vaccine as those over the age of 12. The majority of side effects are mild and temporary, including redness and swelling at the vaccination site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and chills.