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Finland to give vaccine priority to harder-hit regions

Deliveries will only be redirected once risk groups have been vaccinated nationwide.

Sairaanhoitaja antoi nuorelle naiselle Pfizerin koronavirusrokotteen.
Päätös rokotteiden kohdentamisesta tehdään keskiviikkona. Nuori nainen sai koronavirusrokotteen Helsingin Jätkäsaaressa 14. huhtikuuta. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

The Finnish government has decided to temporarily change the country's Covid-19 vaccination scheme to roll out extra jabs to regions with high case numbers.

The temporary decree is to enter into force on 19 April until 31 May, but vaccines designated for a particular region will not be redirected until every person over 70 or belonging to a risk group in a particular region has had at least one vaccine dose. That group includes some 1.9 million people nationwide.

Earlier this week, Hanna Nohynek, chief physician at the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), said that Finland was still on target to roll out vaccinations for working-age people in mid-May, following news that there could be delays in getting jabs into the country.

Finland is still in the process of vaccinating elderly populations and individuals at higher risk of severe complications from a coronavirus infection, like cancer patients and people with diminished immune systems.

Once those individuals have been vaccinated, the government said batches of the Moderna vaccine and one-third of AstraZeneca jabs arriving in Finland should be sent to hospital districts with at least 100 new Covid cases per 100,000 residents in the past two weeks.

Currently, regions with more than 100 new cases include hospital districts in Helsinki and Uusimaa, Southwest Finland, Kymenlaakso, Päijät-Häme and North Savo.

'Three factors'

The government's statement on the policy change said that vaccines would be allocated to districts based on population sizes but also the number of cases as well as volumes of patients being treated for coronavirus infections over the past two weeks, "with equal weight given to all three factors."

The statement said that targeted allocation will only happen once the elderly and risk groups have received at least one vaccine dose. Additionally, it said "targeted allocation must not prevent a person from receiving their second dose of the vaccine that is necessary to achieve vaccination coverage or delay their second dose."

Once the main priority groups get their jabs, the government said vaccines will then roll out in descending order to people in their 60s, 50s, 40s, 30s and then to 16 to 29-year-olds.

Meanwhile, the government also said that the decree amendment allows vaccines to be administered by dentists, health care students (including those studying to be doctors, dentists, nurses, public health nurses or midwives). However, such individuals will need to have received appropriate vaccination training before being permitted to do so. Previously vaccines could only be administered by fully-fledged and adequately-trained doctors, nurses, public health nurses or midwives, according to the government statement.

EDIT 22.4.2021 This story has been edited to clarify the order in which priority changes.

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