By the end of February, Finland has received enough doses of Covid to give all eligible residents a third booster injection, the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) said on Thursday.
Despite this, up to 1.4 million doses of the vaccine a month are expected to enter the country by the fall.
According to THL, the shelf life of vaccines after their arrival in Finland is about seven months. Therefore, now is the time to decide what to do with the millions of possible extra doses.
"Decisions will have to be taken in the coming weeks so that vaccines can be diverted directly from production facilities," Chief Expert of THL Mia Kontio told Yle.
To date, Finland has donated a total of about 5.4 million doses of vaccine, which is about one dose per capita.
The first donation decision was made last fall, when 3.6 million unused doses of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were donated to developing countries.
The vaccines were shipped directly from the factories through Covax, a global vaccine distribution initiative led by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The short shelf life of the AstraZeneca vaccine makes it difficult to distribute donations in poor countries, Reuters reported on Wednesday. It referred to WHO documents showing that many vaccines arrive in just a few months and sometimes only weeks before their expiration date.
Five days to decide on EU agreements
Finland, like many other countries, is committed to vaccination solidarity so that injections can reach even the poorest countries.
Kontio said some countries have ordered many times more rations than they have residents, so more of them have ended up in donations. He added that Finland has been more cautious in its purchases of vaccines.
"Finland has tried to order with a reasonable amount, which, however, can be donated" Kontio said.
Finland obtains its coronavirus vaccine through the European Union’s joint procurement system. In practice, the European Commission negotiates purchase agreements on behalf of the Member States.
Finland has been able to accept or reject accession to each individual agreement and has generally been able to say how many doses are needed for each agreement, said the doctor’s adviser. Sari Ekholm from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
"For each agreement, Finland has had five working days to decide whether to join the agreement." he explained. These deals are binding purchase agreements and have recently included delivery time commitments.
However, Ekholm was unable to specify a schedule for the delivery of additional doses of vaccine. Ministry officials must prepare a proposal, the final decision of which is made by the government.
Donations are slow so far
Vaccine orders were placed at an early stage when it was still unclear how the pandemic would progress.
The EU has not yet formally approved a fourth dose of the vaccine for any age group or other target group. Currently, THL recommends only the fourth dose for severely immunocompromised individuals.
"It is therefore not entirely clear when there are enough vaccines in the country – or too many," Kontio said.
Kontio hoped that donation mechanisms would be more flexible throughout the chain.
"This is an unprecedented situation which has led to an understandable slowness in donations," he said.
Source: The Nordic Page