Coronavirus and vaccine candidates

Finland’s priorities to protect the population

Finland’s priority is to immunise the whole population once safe and effective vaccines are approved for use in the EU.

The vaccines should reduce symptoms and prevent serious illness and death from the COVID-19 disease. At best, they can prevent infection and transmission.

With vaccinating, we can help people stay healthy, avoid straining the healthcare system capacity and keep society as open as possible.

Everyone in Finland can get vaccinated — if they want to

The  Government has issued a decree on COVID-19 vaccinations under section 45 of the Communicable Diseases Act on 22.12.2020. On 16 April, the Government amended the decree on voluntary COVID-19 vaccinations.

COVID-19 vaccines will be offered to everyone in Finland. Vaccination is voluntary and free of charge for all, including healthcare workers. Finland aims to maximise vaccination coverage.

The vaccine priority groups are as follows:

  1. healthcare and social welfare workers who examine or directly treat and care for patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 disease or who provide other kinds of urgent care, and workers and residents in care homes for older adults;
  2. all those 70 years of age and older; 
  3. persons at high risk for severe COVID-19 disease due to underlying health conditions; 
  4. other persons than those in priority groups 1–3. Vaccines will be administered in descending order as follows: 60–69-year-olds, 50–59-year-olds, 40–49-year-olds, 30–39-year-olds and 16–29-year-olds.

Vaccines will be offered to the whole population once marketing authorisations allow the immunisation of wider groups.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the National Advisory Committee on Vaccines (KRAR) have in consultation with experts given their advice to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on the priority groups of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Vaccine doses can be distributed in a targeted manner on the basis of uniform epidemiological grounds that are defined in a transparent manner. The temporary amendment concerning the targeted allocation of vaccines to regions will remain in force until 31 May 2021.

Finland's COVID-19 vaccination strategy outlines the main principles of vaccination

The Government approved the proposed COVID-19 vaccination strategy in its session on 2 December 2020 and issued a government resolution on the strategy 10.12.2020.
The strategy is based on scientific evaluation and research evidence. It defines the main principles of COVID-19 vaccination prioritisation in Finland.

Older adults will be further divided into subgroups by age based on the marketing authorisations, and the priority order may vary depending on the vaccines’ characteristics. It is possible that the efficacy of vaccines varies by age group. The list of underlying health conditions that carry a high risk for severe disease from COVID-19 infection is based on research evidence.

The order of priority for vaccinations depends on the content of the marketing authorisations. Vaccines for children are not expected in the near future, because so far no vaccine candidate have been tested on children. Once such tests have been completed, these vaccines can be authorised for use in children and even children can be vaccinated. 

Vaccines need EU marketing authorisation

Only vaccines that meet strict standards for vaccine quality, safety and efficacy can be granted a marketing authorisation. The European Commission grants marketing authorisations in the EU based on a scientific evaluation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

In the EU there are four COVID-19 vaccines which have been granted a marketing authorisation:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (Comirnaty) and
  • COVID‑19 vaccine developed by Moderna
  • COVID-19 vaccine Vaxzevria developed by AstraZeneca
  • COVID-19 vaccine developed by Janssen-Cilag (Johnson&Johnson)

The first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in Finland in the end December. Finland has started vaccinations alongside other EU countries on 27 December. After that, Finland has rolled out vaccinations in the order of priority.

How will Finland procure vaccines?

Finland is prepared that manufacturers will start delivering vaccines to Finland once their vaccine get a marketing authorisation. Finland has stocked vaccination equipment and supplies and reviewed transport and storage options. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) have urged all hospital districts to get prepared for the rollout of vaccinations in their areas.

Finland gets vaccines through EU joint procurement

Finland will procure all its COVID-19 vaccines through the EU joint procurement. The joint procurement means that the European Commission will procure vaccines for all Member States. The large number of orders will give the EU bargaining power at a time when the global demand for vaccines is enormous. 

The European Commission is negotiating advance purchase agreements with a number of vaccine producers on behalf of the Member States. The EU is also committed to global solidarity to ensure equitable access to vaccines.

The Commission has so far advance agreements with six vaccine producers, and a seventh agreement is being negotiated:

  •  AstraZeneca (300 million doses)
  •  Sanofi-GSK (300 million doses)
  • Johnson & Johnson (Janssen-Cilag, 200 million doses)
  • BioNTech-Pfizer (200 million doses)
  • Curevac (225 million doses)
  • Moderna (160 million doses)

The EU is also negotiating with other vaccine manufacturers. The agreements have been concluded between the Commission and the relevant companies, and they are secret. The Commission is responsible for providing information about the agreements.

So far, Finland is party to six procurement agreements. Four vaccine producers have submitted their vaccine candidates for accelerated assessment by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The EU advance purchase agreements are being financed through the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI), while the Member States will pay for the rest. Finland has reserved funding in the Budget sufficient to cover its own share of the procurement. All 27 Member States take part in the joint procurement.

Further information

Sari Ekholm, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Medical Affairs 
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Department for Safety, Security and Health / TUTO, Biotechnology and Medicines Unit / BILA 0295163447