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Infant vaccination rates drop during pandemic, regional authorities claim figures incorrect

Children's clinics say there was a decline in the number of health check-ups in the early stages of the pandemic.

Vaccinering
According to THL's vaccination coverage map, there was a distinct drop in vaccination coverage in the Päijät-Häme region in southern Finland. Image: Kay Nietfield / EPA

The number of vaccinations administered to infants this spring was significantly lower than during the same period last year, according to the latest figures from the Finnish Institute for Welfare and Health (THL).

There was a decline in the number of health check-ups at children's clinics, especially in the early stages of the coronavirus epidemic. Many families cancelled appointments due to concerns about contracting the virus.

According to THL's vaccination coverage map, there was a distinct drop in vaccination coverage in the Päijät-Häme region of southern Finland, which includes the city of Lahti. The vaccination coverage of the first dose of the five-in-one infant vaccine decreased by six percentage points nationwide — while in Päijät-Häme it dropped by more than 20 percentage points.

The vaccine protects infants against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Hib diseases such as meningitis, epiglottitis and blood poisoning.

THL director Mika Salminen shared the THL coverage map on Twitter and expressed his strong concerns over the numbers.

"No no no! This should not happen by any means. We have to now think together about how to fix this," he tweeted.

Region blames figures on data transfer issues

The Päijät-Häme welfare consortium, however, claims the region's data in THL's register is incorrect.

According to director Mika Forsberg, the erroneous figures could be caused by a data transfer issue. The group has encountered problems transferring data to THL's register in the past, he said.

Forsberg could not estimate the actual number of vaccines administered in the region.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions last spring, many health checks were not carried out. However, there has been no compromise on infant vaccinations, according to Forsberg.

"Some individual vaccinations may have been postponed, but the clinics have followed the national infant vaccination programme," he said.

The welfare group is now investigating the reason why the data does not correspond with medical workers’ estimates.

Statistical problems have been reported in other hospital districts too. According to THL, the vaccination coverage of North Karelia, Pirkanmaa and Åland has not been assessed due to data transfer problems.

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