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Finns stock up on iodine tablets

Iodine tablets, used to prevent the absorption of radiation, have sold out in some Finnish pharmacies.

Joditablettipakkauksia apteekin palvelutiskillä.
Strong iodine should only be taken if instructed to do so by the authorities. Image: Petteri Sopanen / Yle
Yle News

The attack on Ukraine has had an impact on domestic pharmaceutical sales. The demand for strong iodine has been higher than usual at Yliopiston Apteekki, the pharmacy chain with stores across Finland. Strong iodine is only intended for use in a crisis situation, such as a nuclear event.

At the Uusi Apteekki pharmacy in Joensuu, iodine tablets ran out on Wednesday.

"There has been strong demand over the last couple of weeks. Our annual demand of ten units has been replaced by a weekly demand of ten units. Of course, the true demand was even greater. Who knows how much we would have sold, had the product been available," said pharmacist Eero Suihko.

Iodine tablets have also run out at the Lappeenranta Prisma pharmacy. According to the pharmacy, more iodine tablets are currently not available to them. The pharmacy in Lappeenranta S-market Myllykeskus has meanwhile started to restrict the sale of iodine tablets to batches of ten.

Pharmacist Pia Kukkohovi from Porvoo Old Pharmacy said that their demand for iodine tablets has also increased considerably in recent days and that they are nearly sold out with little chance of replenishing supplies quickly.

According to Kukkohovi, packs of ten tablets are usually sold once a month or not at all, but this month alone 18 packs have been sold.

Iodine tablets were also sold out at both the Kokkola and Rovaniemi Sampo pharmacy, Tornio's First Pharmacy and Salla Pharmacy.

Martha organisation receives preparedness calls

According to the Martha organisation's Secretary General, Marianne Heikkilä, the organisation had numerous calls about preparedness when the crisis escalated this week – not just in terms of the immediate future but long-term.

The inquiries came not only from those within the organisation but also from outsiders.

The Martha organisation was in the process of planning a year of activities themed around preparing for various situations. Based on recent contacts, Heikkilä said that it might be necessary to step up their training efforts.

According to Heikkilä, individual preparedness and anticipation are good ways to deal with anxiety in a new situation. In addition to the Marthas, the National Defense Training Association, which maintains the country's voluntary national defense, talks about a so-called home preparedness kit.

The idea is that every home should have enough supplies to survive a few days without outside resources, if necessary.

According to Heikkilä, general preparedness also includes understanding the heating of one's home and knowing where the nearest shelter is. People have already been concerned about food security and how this could be strengthened.

"Yes, individual preparedness will rise to a whole new level in this situation," Heikkilä said.

The situation in Ukraine has raised concerns about the response of children and young people. According to Heikkilä, this is not something that only concerns children, the rapidly changing situation in Ukraine is also testing the emotional strength of adults.

Iodine should only be taken if instructed by the authorities

Strong iodine should not be taken independently as a precaution. It should only be taken on instruction by the authorities.

"In that case, it is important to take immediately. If intake is delayed by three to four hours, the protective effect is only 50 percent," says Kukkohovi.

Iodine tablets protect the thyroid gland in the event of a sudden and unexpected nuclear accident. The tablets should, in fact, always be available at home.

Suihko suggests people can search online on for locations where iodine tablets are still available. Another option is to wait for a new batch to arrive at pharmacies.

There is no need to excessively stock up on iodine. Suihko says that a jar of ten tablets contains enough iodine for ten adults.

"It's enough for your nearest and dearest," he said.

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