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Finland still awaiting monkeypox vaccine

There have been more than 20 monkeypox cases in Finland so far, with most transmissions occurring abroad.

Smallpox and monkeypox are closely related. In the past, vaccination against smallpox also provided protection against monkeypox. Image: AOP

The monkeypox vaccine is still not available in Finland.

Anniina Virkku, a medical expert at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), told Yle that the vaccines have not yet arrived.

A few weeks ago, THL said the doses would arrive by the end of July. Around 1,000 doses of the vaccine are expected to be delivered to Finland.

According to Virkku, the vaccines are mainly intended for people exposed to monkeypox. Once the doses arrive in the country, THL will issue a more detailed recommendation on vaccination.

Infection requires prolonged close contact

Mika Rämet, Director of the Vaccine Research Centre, said he believes Finland is not late in preparing for monkeypox, even though the vaccines have not yet arrived.

"Monkeypox is not very contagious. It takes a long period of close contact to become infected," Rämet said.

According to Rämet, monkeypox is unlikely to spread widely throughout the population in the same way as coronavirus. Consequently, Finland can manage with only a small number of vaccines, at least for now.

Over 20 infections in Finland

There have been more than 20 monkeypox cases in Finland so far, with most transmissions occurring abroad.

Worldwide, there are more than 30,000 confirmed monkeypox cases.

At the end of July, Spain reported the first monkeypox-related deaths in Europe.

Monkeypox was declared a global public health threat by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in July.

EU joint procurement plan

Vaccines will be provided to Finland as part of the European Union's joint procurement plan. A total of 160,000 monkeypox vaccine doses have been purchased by the EU so far.

Vaccine availability is limited, at least initially, according to Virkku. The vaccines will be distributed to EU countries depending on their infection rates.

The EU has already provided vaccines to countries with the highest number of cases.

New types of vaccines coming to Finland

Smallpox and monkeypox are closely related. In the past, vaccination against smallpox also provided protection against monkeypox.

"In that sense, it is not particularly surprising that monkeypox is on the rise, now that smallpox vaccination has been abandoned," said Rämet.

Finland is set to receive the new smallpox vaccines, which provide protection against monkeypox as well.