A "significant" proportion of people recently diagnosed with a coronavirus infection had received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to Mika Salminen, Director of health agency THL's Department for Health Security.
Some 65 percent of the population of Finland have received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while about 32 percent have received both doses.
However, the number of infections have been increasing rapidly in recent weeks, with THL reporting 612 new cases on Tuesday and a further 644 infections on Wednesday.
As of Wednesday morning, some 5,131 cases have been recorded over the past two weeks, which is over 2,000 cases more than in the previous 14-day period.
Salminen was interviewed on Radio Suomi on Wednesday morning to answer questions about the increasing number of cases and the vaccine rollout, transcribed below.
How many of those infected have been vaccinated?
"One thing that is good to understand is that a large part of the population has now received the vaccination. A single dose does not yet fully protect against infection, although it does provide protection against serious illness. Currently, a significant number of infections have been reported among those who received a single dose of vaccine," Salminen replied.
What about those who have received two doses?
"We are talking about a few percent, and according to our information, no one in Finland has yet contracted a serious illness [on account of being infected with the virus]. These cases focus on the higher ages, when the immune system is not as strong as in adolescents."
What can be said about the efficacy of vaccines?
"The efficacy of vaccines is still very good, and this [recent uptick in infections] does not change the effectiveness calculations. This phenomenon is fully anticipated, as vaccinations do not completely prevent infections, but they do help to prevent serious illness. However, one dose is not enough, so people should go get a second dose. After that, the protection will be as good as it can be."
When will restrictions be lifted and we return to normal?
"It is still too early to return to normal. It is a topic for wider societal debate when the risks of serious illness are sufficiently reduced."
The increasing number of recent infections has not yet significantly increased the need for hospitalisation. Is this more due to vaccines or the age of those affected?
"Vaccines obviously contribute to the fact that there are few elderly people among those who are ill or infected. Deaths have also been low, suggesting that the vaccination programme works as it should. Similar results have been obtained across Europe. If the vaccinations weren’t so advanced, we would now have plenty of infections in the elderly as well."
Will a third vaccine be needed later?
"Based on current information, there is no definite position on the need for a third vaccine. It is still too early to assess, as experience with the effects of vaccines has not been gained over a long term period. However, it is known that the immune response remains at a high level and for longer than initially believed."
The United States has recommended the use of a face mask for people who have been vaccinated. How long should masks be worn for in Finland?
"THL's recommendation has remained unchanged. We recommend using a face mask throughout the country. The stage at which it can be abandoned depends on the coverage of the vaccines. In the United States, there are large differences in vaccine coverage between different states."