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THL: Finland may get coronavirus vaccine before year’s end, but no return to normal in sight

Injections may begin before New Year's if EU authorities approve the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine as expected.

THL:n ylilääkäri Taneli Puumalainen.
Taneli Puumalainen, chief physician at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), spoke on Yle TV1 on Saturday. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

The first batches of coronavirus vaccine may be delivered to Finland later this month, according to Taneli Puumalainen, chief physician at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Interviewed on Yle TV1 on Saturday, Puumalainen said that the initial doses will probably arrive between Christmas and New Year’s after EU approval, and that injections can begin quickly after that.

"The latest information is that the marketing authorisation will be processed around Christmastime, either just before Christmas or between Christmas and New Year’s. I assume that within a couple of days of this, vaccine deliveries will begin to all EU countries at the same time,” Puumalainen said.

The first vaccine to arrive in Finland will probably be the one developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, but Finland is also taking part in advance procurements of several other vaccines. The BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine is awaiting final approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

More detailed timetable next week

The European Commission is to grant marketing authorisation for all EU member states simultaneously, based on the EMA decision.

Puumalainen said that the THL expects more precise information about the distribution timetable next week.

"Hopefully we’ll find out next week how many doses and of which vaccine we’ll receive in Finland,” he said.

Finland will first vaccinate healthcare and old-age care home staff, followed by the elderly and other risk groups, then the general public, beginning with adults. The vaccine will be available free of charge.

Puumalainen warned that there will still be no return to normal in sight, even when vaccinations begin, noting that vaccines will only be delivered in small batches throughout next year.

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