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Health Minister: "We can't put other countries' citizens ahead of Finns"

Finland says it's prepared to vaccinate everyone 12 and older against coronavirus a third time.

Ministeri Krista Kiuru (sd.) kommentoi A-studiossa kisaturistien koronatartuntoja.
Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP).

Finland has made procurement contracts to purchase a third round of Covid shots for everyone 12 and older, according to Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP).

Speaking to Yle's Ykkösaamu show on Saturday, Kiuru said Finland has agreed to purchase third vaccine doses should experts recommend an additional round of jabs.

"Vaccines have to be procured ahead of time," Kiuru said, though emphasising that a third round hinged on expert recommendations put forward by the National Advisory Committee on Vaccines (KRAR).

The minister said a decision regarding third vaccine doses would possibly be made during the autumn. "The procurement deals will guarantee that we have the doses if we need them," she explained.

Elderly people who received the second jab three weeks after the first shot are likely to need a third dose, as studies now indicate that a six-week interval offers greater protection against the virus.

On Friday Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS) said it was starting to offer third doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine as it races to use the jabs before they go out of date. HUS said it would immediately begin offering the third dose to fully-vaccinated individuals at high risk from complications of infection as well as healthcare staff who care for Covid patients in the region.

Finland first

The World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly called for wealthy countries to pause Covid booster shots until poorer nations have been able to administer at least one dose.

While Kiuru agreed that the global vaccination cover was still low, she said, "Finland's position can't be that we put the interests of other countries' citizens ahead of our own."

She noted that Finland has offered its store of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to WHO's Covax vaccine initiative. Kiuru, however, said that Finland needed to hold on to its supply of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines which were being used to inoculate the country.

"We need these vaccines for our own citizens. My job is to take care of the Finnish people, so there is no way I could propose that we would skip vaccine top-ups if our scientists say we need them."

Epidemic of the unvaccinated

Kiuru also noted that vaccination rates in Finland had slowed, making it less likely that the country would reach its goal of having 80 percent of the 12-and-over population fully dosed by mid-October—a threshold that would allow for the lifiting of coronavirus restrictions.

News emerged this week that there were an estimated 780,000 people over the age 12 in Finland yet to receive even one dose of a Covid vaccine, a situation which health authority THL has warned could escalate into an epidemic of the unvaccinated.

While authorities have yet to outline how to deal with unvaccinated people when restrictions are eventually lifted, Kiuru said all of Finland can't be "held hostage" by a handful of municipalities with low vaccination rates.

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