Finland to get record number of flu jabs – but maybe not enough

Finland is to receive a record number of influenza shots, but it's unclear if there will be enough for everyone who wants them.

According to the THL, the flu season has not yet begun (file photo). Image: Arttu Timonen / Yle

The first doses of influenza vaccine have arrived in Finland and vaccinations for healthcare professionals begin in the next few days. Finland has ordered a total of 2.6 million doses, which health officials hope will be enough for everyone who wants one.

Finland has prepared for growing demand for influenza vaccinations by ordering 500,000 more vaccine doses for this winter than last season.

A total of 2.6 million doses are due to arrive for this season. Two million of these are earmarked for public healthcare while 600,000 will go to private health companies. During the 2020-2021 flu season, Finland received a total of 2.1 million influenza vaccine doses. The country has a population of just over 5.5 million.

Last winter, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, there was a surge in demand for flu shots. As a result, doses ran out and vaccination appointments had to be cancelled.

Mia Kontio, Chief Specialist at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), is hopeful that there will be enough flu vaccine doses this time.

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According to Mia Kontio, more flu vaccine doses were ordered this year because demand was so high last year. Image: Privat.

"It's really hard to say if there will be enough. There are already half a million more doses here than last season, so the situation is much better," Kontio told Yle.

"Hopefully as many people at risk as possible will get the vaccine," she added.

Last winter was the first time that Finland has run out of flu shots. In previous years, some 300,000 doses annually have remained unused. In the past, only about half of those at risk have taken the vaccine.

Health officials attribute the heightened demand to media coverage and authorities' calls for as many people as possible to take the flu vaccine last autumn. They cited a risk that one may be more susceptible to the coronavirus after having the flu – or vice versa.

Caregiver jabs begin soon

Public health care provides influenza vaccines free to risk groups through a national vaccination programme.

Due to the increased demand for flu vaccine, the priority is vaccinating those who treat flu patients or who are otherwise particularly susceptible to severe influenza.

According to Kontio, vaccinations of the elderly will be scheduled for late November and early December, so that the protection will be as good as possible into next year.

Private health companies will also launch vaccinations in the coming days.

No more vaccines available in mid-season

If the flu vaccines run out in the middle of this winter as well, it won't be possible to order more in the middle of the season.

"We have a contract for a certain amount of vaccine and it's impossible to go over that. Last season, there were no more flu vaccines available, they were off the market," said Kontio.