Contrary to previous estimates, coronavirus vaccinations may start in Europe as early as December. Finland is also preparing for this possibility, officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) told Yle.
According to preliminary estimates, the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine could be approved for use in early December and they could start supplying vaccines immediately after.
“Provisions have been made for the possibility of starting vaccinations quickly after authorisation has been granted and once vaccine batches have been received,” Ministry of Social Affairs and Health's chief physician Sari Ekholm said.
Authorities said they have been surprised by the pace of vaccine development, despite the fact that permitting processes have been sped up.
"Now we are in a promising situation. There are vaccines whose protective efficacy has been proven quite reliably," said Mika Rämet, Director of the Vaccine Research Centre at the Tampere University.
Vaccine schedule not confirmed
Authorities are not willing to comment on the vaccination schedule for the entire population yet.
It was earlier reported that Finland’s national vaccine expert group is recommending that a coronavirus vaccine should first be administered to healthcare workers tending to Covid-19 patients, those working in elder care homes, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions that put them at special risk.
However, Rämet warns the virus is not going to disappear once vaccinations begin.
“The virus does not disappear. The larger the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated, the easier it will be for the infectivity rate to fall below one and the epidemic to subside,” he said.
There are now three vaccines on the verge of authorisation: the Pfizer and BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Oxford University, and the Moderna vaccine. Several other vaccines are in the works for next spring.
Pfizer has announced it could deliver 50 million doses of vaccine worldwide in December. The amount that will be received by the EU has not been disclosed.