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Finland faces flu vaccine shortage

No new vaccination appointments can be made, but those with existing appointments can get flu jabs as long as doses last.

Influenssarokotusta pistetään.
Vaccination days have been cancelled in Turku, Vaasa, Rovaniemi, Keminmaa and Inari. In Lapland, vaccinations are running out in Tornio and Ylitornio. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

Finland is facing a severe shortage of influenza vaccines this year.

There are still about 100,000 vaccines reserved for at-risk people as part of the National Vaccination Programme, but vaccines purchased from pharmacies or private health centres have virtually run out, according to Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

THL specialist Mia Kontio from THL revealed that vaccines for people at risk may be in short supply in some areas, while still available in others.

"It is now important to start moving vaccines to those who need them, from areas where they may still be in abundance in refrigerators,” Kontio said.

Vaccination days have been cancelled in Turku, Vaasa, Rovaniemi, Keminmaa and Inari. In Lapland, vaccinations are running out in Tornio and Ylitornio.

Flu shots are running out in the cities of Helsinki, Tampere, Orivesi and Turku, as well as in the South Karelia Social and Health Care District (Eksote). A shortage has been reported in the Kainuu region too.

No new vaccination appointments will be made, but people with existing appointments can get the jab as long as doses last.

THL had previously estimated that there are enough flu vaccines for groups listed in the vaccination programme despite strong demand. It includes social, healthcare and medical care personnel, pregnant women, children under seven and people over 65 years, those belonging to at-risk groups because of an illness or treatment, and military conscripts.

Unprecedented demand

Signs of the shortage were reported last week in private clinics, but now even the national vaccination programme is facing a scarcity.

The situation is almost unprecedented, according to Kari S. Lankinen, senior physician at Länsi-Pohja healthcare district’s primary healthcare unit.

"Boosted by media publicity and the coronavirus epidemic, there has been an unprecedented vaccine-positivity. The influenza vaccine entered the National Vaccine Programme exactly 40 years ago and has never run out before," Lankinen said.

In autumn, THL acquired about 1.8 million vaccines for the national programme, and according to THL, more than 400,000 vaccines were purchased in the free market.

Now stocks of pharmaceutical wholesalers have been depleted and fresh stocks are not easily available abroad.

THL has delivered its own vaccines throughout Finland to about 60 hospital pharmacies or drug centres, from where they were distributed to individual municipalities and health care institutions.

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