Coronavirus and vaccine candidates

Finland’s priorities to protect the population

All vaccine candidates against COVID-19 are still at stages of development and research. No vaccine candidate has yet been granted a marketing authorisation. Finland’s priority is to immunise the whole population once a safe and effective vaccine is 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.

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).

EMA recommended 21 December 2020 granting a conditional marketing authorisation for the vaccine Comirnaty, developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). EMA’s scientific opinion paved the way for the first marketing authorisation of a COVID-19 vaccine in the EU by the European Commission on the same day. 

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 receiving the batches, Finland will roll out vaccinations in the order of priority. Vaccines will not be available for all in the first phase of the vaccinations. The final decisions on the order of priority will be made once an authorised vaccine is available and when we know in which priority groups it is safe to use.

On 6 January 2021, the European Commission has granted a conditional marketing authorisation (CMA) for the COVID‑19 vaccine developed by Moderna, the second COVID-19 vaccine authorised in the EU. 

Everyone in Finland can get vaccinated — if they want to

The Government will decide on the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations in Finland and will issue a decree on COVID-19 vaccinations under section 45 of the Communicable Diseases Act. The Government issued 22.12.2020 a decree on vaccinations, which is needed to deploy the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Finland.

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; other persons than those in priority groups 1–3.

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.

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. 

We do not know yet how many vaccine doses Finland will get

We do not yet know how many vaccine doses we will receive. Finland has reserved vaccines for the whole population through the EU joint procurement. However, the number of doses Finland receives will depend on the marketing authorisations.

Each Member State will receive vaccine doses in proportion to their populations from the total amount of EU acquired vaccines. Only vaccines authorised at EU level can be delivered to the Member States. Vaccine manufacturers can start deliveries immediately after receiving a marketing authorisation. Finland will receive vaccine doses in many batches over time.

How will Finland procure vaccines?

No vaccine candidate has yet been granted a marketing authorisation. This means that Finland cannot follow the customary process of procuring vaccines, which is used to procure vaccines for the national vaccination programme. This process is based on open competitive tendering.

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 (200 million doses)
  • BioNTech-Pfizer (200 million doses)
  • Curevac (225 million doses)
  • Moderna (80 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.

COVID-19 vaccines developed at unprecedented speed

As of yet, no vaccine protecting against the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been granted marketing authorisation. More than 200 vaccine candidates are being developed, two of them in Finland.
The World Health Organization (WHO) publishes on its website an updated list of all the vaccine candidates currently under development:

Usually, developing vaccines against viruses takes years, sometimes even decades, and only a few are successful in the end. Efforts are being made worldwide to speed up research and development on vaccines against COVID-19. Some of the vaccine candidates are based on new technologies that have never been successfully used in vaccines.

International cooperation in vaccine procurement

Finland has joined the international COVAX Facility that aims to guarantee fair and speedy access to COVID-19 vaccines for every country in the world and to accelerate the development, manufacturing and delivery of the vaccines. COVAX is led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the international alliances CEPI and GAVI.

CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, is responsible for financing epidemic preparedness and the development and manufacturing of vaccines. GAVI, the Global Vaccine Alliance, prepares purchase agreements and procures vaccines for developing countries. The WHO supports countries in preparing their health systems for rolling out vaccination programmes. 
The COVAX Facility aims to redistribute two billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021.

Finland joined the COVAX Facility as part of Team Europe. Team Europe, consisting of the EU and its Member States, support the COVAX Facility to accelerate the development, manufacturing and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide and guarantee that even the poorest countries have access to vaccines.

Team Europe is a significant contributor, having mobilised around EUR 900 million for COVAX by December 2020. Finland has pledged EUR 2 million for the COVAX Facility. In 2020, Finland has supported GAVI with EUR 2.5 million and CEPI with EUR 4 million, of which EUR 3 million was pledged to vaccine development.

Almost all countries of the world have joined COVAX.

Further information

Tuija Kumpulainen, Director General 
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Turvallisuus ja terveys -osasto / TUTO 0295163280  

Sari Ekholm, ylilääkäri 
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Turvallisuus ja terveys -osasto / TUTO, Bioteknologia ja lääkkeet -yksikkö / BILA 0295163447