The rollout of widespread coronavirus vaccinations in Finland will have to be postponed due to drug company AstraZeneca's manufacturing problems, says the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). The daily Helsingin Sanomat was first to report the news on Saturday.
The British-Swedish pharmaceutical company warned on Friday that it would not immediately be able to supply as many doses of vaccine Europe as originally planned.
THL Chief Specialist Mia Kontio described the situation as a major disappointment.
The THL had told municipalities around Finland to be ready to begin large-scale vaccinations starting in the week of 8 February. Now that timetable will have to be adjusted.
"Mass vaccinations cannot begin at the scale that we had envisaged," Kontio said.
AstraZeneca had initially promised Finland hundreds of thousands of doses per week. Kontio told Yle that the company on Saturday had not yet provided the THL with a new official estimate of delivery sizes or timing.
Most healthy working-age people in Finland are to receive the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
"The assumption was that hundreds of thousands of doses would be arriving in the country every week. Now our estimate is significantly lower," she said.
THL now expects Finland to receive a delivery containing a few tens of thousands of doses in mid-February and another with about 100,000 around the end of the month. There is no certainty about the delivery sizes, though.
No word on vaccination timetable for general population
Kontio said she fears that due to delivery problems, vaccinations of the elderly and others in risk groups will be delayed well into spring.
"If we get hundreds of thousands fewer doses than estimated, it will be quite tight to get those two million doses needed to vaccinate all healthcare staff, elderly people and risk groups," she said.
Kontio declined to make any estimate of when vaccinations for the general population of healthy adults could begin.
"When these kinds of surprises occur, you can no longer make an estimate," she said.
On Friday the Reuters news agency reported that AstraZeneca would cut deliveries of its vaccine to EU countries by 60 percent in the first quarter of the year due to production problems.
This means that the manufacturer would only be able to deliver about 31 million doses by the end of March instead the previously promised 80 million doses.