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Finland detects fewer than a dozen India variant cases, most at the border

The British variant is dominant in Helsinki's Covid epidemic.

76-vuotias Maire Löppönen sai Astra Zenecan rokotteen, jonka pisti sairaanhoitaja Nguelah Elisè.
Vaccinations being given at the Jätkäsaari vaccination centre in Helsinki on 15 April. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Finland has detected around ten cases of the B.1.617 coronavirus variant which was first detected in India, according to Helsinki University virology professor Olli Vapalahti. Most of these infections were found at the border as people arrived into the country.

The variant has prompted concern among public health officials as Covid spread and death rates continue to spiral in India.

Vapalahti told Yle's morning TV show that Covid cases in Helsinki were split 80-20 between the British and South African strains of the virus.

According to Vapalahti, the rest of the country is likely to follow the trends first seen in Helsinki.

Although there is no evidence yet that the India variant evades the defences provided by Covid vaccines, the issue is under scrutiny from researchers.

Some 35 percent of the Finnish population has received one dose of a Covid vaccine, with four percent receiving two doses.

According to Vapalahti, the first dose is quite effective in reducing the spread of the British variant.

"The first dose is not so effective in preventing spread of the South African variant," he added. "We will achieve better protection once more people have had two doses."

Vapalahti said that researchers don't yet know for sure how long vaccine immunity lasts. He said it is probable that some kind of booster shot will be necessary in the future.

"Generally speaking coronaviruses mutate slower than influenza, for example, so annual boosters don't seem probable," he said.

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