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Finland introduces mandatory Covid vaccinations for healthcare workers

The motion was passed in Parliament by 107 votes to 32 and will see a temporary amendment added to the Communicable Diseases Act.

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Healthcare workers must be vaccinated if they are in close contact with elderly or at-risk groups. Image: Jari Kovalainen / Yle
Yle News

Finland's Parliament on Tuesday voted in favour of a government proposal to make Covid vaccinations mandatory for healthcare workers if they are in close contact with elderly or at-risk patients.

The motion was passed by 107 votes to 32, and will lead to a temporary article being included in the Communicable Diseases Act which allows employers in the social and healthcare sectors to require that staff get the Covid jab if their duties bring them into close contact with certain patient groups.

The act already contains a list of mandatory vaccines for healthcare staff, and the coronavirus vaccine will now be added to the list for a temporary period.

If a worker refuses to get the Covid vaccine they can, as an alternative, provide evidence of a recent negative coronavirus test to their employer. A healthcare worker who has contracted and recovered from the virus would also be considered to be protected.

The interim clause on mandatory coronavirus vaccines will enter into force as soon as possible and will remain in place until the end of next year.

Finns Party, Christian Democrats demand rapid tests

The government’s proposal led to a heated debate between MPs during Parliament's plenary debate, with more than 40 legislators speaking on the subject.

The Finns Party were opposed to the proposal and submitted a counter-statement calling for healthcare staff to undergo rapid tests instead of requiring vaccinations.

"Mandatory vaccination will increase the burden on healthcare staff and could cause problems with access to labour. The law [change] could cause a crisis in the industry," Finns Party MP Juha Mäenpää said.

"The vaccine does not guarantee that the caregiver will not carry the virus. The rapid test does guarantee it," his party colleague Kaisa Juuso stated.

Sari Essayah, chair of the Christian Democrats party, expressed a concern that the vaccine mandate could create further tensions in a sector where workers are already stressed and under pressure.

"How is it possible that the left-wing parties have passed such an extreme law, isn't it going too far here," Essayah's party colleague Päivi Räsänen asked.

"People are not being fired"

However, the five governing coalition parties as well as the opposition National Coalition Party (NCP) all supported the amendment, with each party stressing that amending the law does not mean forced vaccinations.

Under the terms of the amendment, the responsibility will be on the employer to first offer other tasks to those who do not want to take the vaccine.

"People are not being fired here. Other tasks can be offered first," NCP MP Pia Kauma said, while Centre Party MP Pasi Kivisaari said that the availability of labour in the social and healthcare services sector must be monitored after the change in the law.

"I hope that the third round of vaccine doses will go smoothly and comprehensively. These proposed temporary changes are not nice legislation," Kivisaari said.

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