Coronavirus jabs to be voluntary in Finland

There are only very specific situations in which vaccinations could be required by law, a physician explains.

Researcher holds sample of a coronavirus vaccine in a test tube (file photo). Image: Rungroj Yongrit / EPA

Work on creating a safe and effective vaccine against novel coronavirus continues in laboratories around the world, and the effort seems to be advancing more quickly than expected even just a short time ago.

However, some have wondered about the safety of a vaccine developed at such a fast pace. At the same time some are also wondering whether the jab could be made obligatory.

Not in Finland, at least, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health's chief physician, Sari Ekholm.

"No, I don't see any obligatory vaccinations coming here," she said.

While a section of Finnish legislation covers the topic of compulsory vaccinations, it cannot be applied to the coronavirus epidemic, according to Ekholm.

However, she said in certain cases vaccinations can be made mandatory if there were, for example, an outbreak of a much deadlier disease like smallpox, caused by a bioterror attack.

Race for the jab

There are several efforts around the world to create a coronavirus vaccine as quickly as possible, and there is hope one could be developed by the end of the year.

Ekholm said one vaccine in particular, developed by the Swedish-British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca and Oxford University, is one of the forerunners and the EU Commission has already reserved a supply of it once it's ready.

Meanwhile, Finnish efforts to create a vaccine are lagging behind international ones, she explained.

Who'll get it first?

Another question many are asking is who will first get access to the coronavirus vaccination. If earlier procedures are followed, it will be health care workers, according to Ekholm.

"They have the highest risk of being infected by the virus and those professionals are needed to keep health care operations running," she said.

After that, coronavirus jabs will roll out to others, largely depending on which groups the vaccine has proven to be both effective and safe.

"We're waiting for a sales permit to be issued. The first vaccinations could take place around the beginning of next year. It all depends on the research that's in progress," Ekholm said.

About 70 percent of Finns are interested in receiving coronavirus vaccinations, according to a survey carried out by the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) last month.