Finland receives first batch of Covid vaccines

The initial shipment includes doses for 5,000 people.

Staff of Helsinki University Hospital (HUS) district were the first to receive the coronavirus vaccination in Finland. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

Finland will begin inoculating residents on Sunday, 27 December after receiving its first allotment of Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine on Saturday.

Mia Kontio, a specialist at the Finnish institute for Health and Welfare (THL), told Yle the doses had arrived.

"It's the allotment we were promised," she said of the vaccines en route to university hospitals.

The first batch includes 9,750 shots--enough for some 5,000 people--as the vaccine requires two doses.

Front-line ICU healthcare workers will be the first to get the jab, followed by healthcare personnel working with Covid patients. Vaccinators will then proceed to inoculate staff and inhabitants at elder care facilities.

Public health institute THL has kept delivery details secret to safeguard the vaccines from theft. Health authorities have, however, disclosed that the vaccines will arrive with other freight and that they will be evenly distributed across the country.

Vaccinating such a small number of people has widely been seen as a symbolic gesture. The EU has underscored the importance of member states being able to roll out vaccines simultaneously.

Tuija Kumpulainen, a department head at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, has said Finland will receive its next delivery of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine before the New Year.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Commission approved the Pfizer and BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday, paving the way for mass vaccinations across the bloc.

The vaccine is intended for people 16 and older.