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Thursday's papers: Vaccine strategy, vaccine concerns, building in wood

Morning papers report that the Finnish government now has a plan to roll out a national Covid vaccination programme.

Peruspalveluministeri Krista Kiurun (sd.) mukaan koronarokote tullaan tarjoamaan kaikille halukkaille.
Minister of Family and Basic Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) says that that the first to get the free vaccinations will be healthcare staff who work with coronavirus patients and nursing home personnel. Image: Lehtikuva

The tabloid Iltalehti is among the papers reporting that the Finnish government decided on Wednesday evening on the outlines of its strategy for a vaccination programme aimed at bringing the coronavirus epidemic under control.

It quotes from a government release saying that once available, the vaccine will be provided free of charge to all residents.

It is expected that the vaccine will be available in Finland after the start of the new year and the vaccination programme will start immediately then.

Following Wednesday evening's cabinet meeting, Minister of Family and Basic Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) told the media that the first to get the vaccine will be healthcare staff who work with coronavirus patients and nursing home personnel.

The first batches of the vaccine will also be given to the elderly and people with preexisting conditions that put them at special risk.

Distribution of the vaccine will be the responsibility of the hospital districts. Vaccinations will be given at large public health and occupational health facilities.

Further details of the plan are to be announced later on Thursday.

Mobile phone update

Tampere's Aamulehti writes that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has started sending out SMS text messages about the coronavirus situation to mobile phone subscribers.

The message that started going out to all mobile phones in the country on Wednesday is in Finnish, Swedish, English and North Sámi.

The English-language version reads "MSAH Epidemic alert: COVID-19 is worsening in Finland. Protect yourself & others. Please follow regional recommendations & restrictions. Read more thl.fi/regions."

The ministry says that the text messages are being sent in stages, so not everyone received one on the first day.

Calming concerns

Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat writes that some people, particularly healthy middle-aged and young people, are asking what the risks of the Covid vaccine may be, and if they are greater than the benefits of vaccination.

It notes a tweet (in Finnish) by economist Tuomas Malinen: "As an economist, I think about it this way. Mortality in my age group from the disease is non-existent. I'm 44 so with any luck, I'll still have the same wonderful lifespan ahead. Dare I put my health at risk with an experimental vaccine because of a non-life-threatening illness? Of course not."

Mika Rämet, who is Director of the Vaccine Research Centre at the University of Tampere and a Professor of Paediatrics and Experimental Immunology, says that this "sounds reasonable", adding that people naturally wonder what the pros and cons of vaccination might be.

As Rämet told the paper, the median age of those who have died from coronavirus infections in Finland is 84. The virus is clearly most dangerous for the elderly. Still, mortality is not zero among those under 50 years of age.

Even young people have severe symptoms and long-term consequences of the disease, such as severe fatigue syndrome and neurological symptoms.

Vaccines, on the other hand, have not shown serious harm in extensive human trials. Some 30,000 subjects participated in the third phase Pfizer vaccine trial and more than 40,000 in Biontech trials.

The risk of side effects is less is than one in ten thousand.

If healthy middle-aged and young people are still concerned about taking the vaccine, they don't have to stress about their decision, unless they are caring for people who are at risk from the virus, Professor Rämet tells HS.

"They wouldn’t be among the first to get vaccinated anyway," Rämet points out.

Building in wood

The local Helsinki daily Helsingin Uutiset reports that wooden buildings are making a return to the urban scene in Finland, and they are bigger than ever before – going up as blocks of flats and corporate headquarters.

The paper especially notes the ecological advantages of building in wood. Right now, a third of Europe's carbon emissions are related to buildings, it writes, and more wood construction is an effective way to reduce emissions and store carbon.

Petri Heino, who heads a state wood construction programme, told the paper that in the past a lot of attention was given to energy efficiency in construction, but not the overall environmental impact.

A change is coming. By 2025, at the latest, the law will mandate how large the carbon footprint of a building’s life cycle may be. Maximum emissions are defined for materials, construction sites, use and even future dismantling of buildings.

The government wants to double wooden construction and has set a target for wood construction to account for 31 percent of new public building in 2022, and 45 percent in 2025.

Even through modern wooden construction has not really made a breakthrough in Helsinki yet, there are a growing number of examples.

A "city village" built of wood for 2,000 residents is currently going up in the Honkasuo district of the capital.

The new headquarters of the mobile game company Supercell, built of wood in Jätkäsaari, will be commissioned at the turn of the year. Stora Enso's wooden headquarters and a hotel built of wood are scheduled for completion in Katajanokka by 2023.

There is also plenty of wood in the walls and roof of Helsinki's Oodi Library, although the frame is made of steel. The renovation of the capital's Olympic Stadium won the 2020 Wood Award.

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