According to current information, the first batch of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine could be available in Finland by the middle of next week, according to Toni Relander, the Institute for Health and Welfare’s (THL) pharmaceutical wholesale director.
However, the question of whether the vaccine will be given to people over the age of 65, remains up in the air due to questions about its efficacy in elderly people.
There is speculation that the vaccine–which was approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) last week–might not be approved for seniors in Finland because data covering that group in the AstraZeneca trial is not extensive.
In its marketing authorisation announcement last Friday, the EMA noted that the AstraZeneca vaccine had a 60 percent efficacy rate and recommended that it be administered to people 18 years of age and older.
Different strategies in Germany and UK
But shortly after the EMA’s authorisation announcement, Germany said it would only give AstraZeneca‘s vaccine to people under the age of 65. However, the UK has already administered the jab to adult-aged individuals, including seniors.
Meanwhile, in Finland, the National Advisory Committee on Vaccines (Krar) is scheduled to discuss the matter on Tuesday, in an aim to make recommendations to the THL about how the AstraZeneca vaccine will be doled out across the country.
The final decision on the issue will be reached by THL alone or by the agency along with the ministry for social affairs and health.
Krar’s chair, Ville Peltola said that the expert committee is evaluating the estimated efficacy of AstraZeneca‘s vaccine among various age groups as well as how quickly vaccines will roll out in Finland.
Peltola said the group also plans to discuss whether to recommend giving the vaccine to younger age groups or, for example, to those at higher risk of complications due to health issues, in case the doses aren’t given to the elderly.
Peltola said he would not speculate about what decisions the committee might reach, as the issue remains unresolved.
“There is a need to get the elderly vaccinated quickly, that is clear,” he said.
Decision expected this week
The THL’s Relander said that Finland could receive nearly 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine this month, but emphasised that figure was just an estimate which may quickly change.
The THL’s chief physician, Hanna Nohynek, said that vaccination experts from various EU countries would discuss the reasoning behind the different stances of Germany and the UK about the vaccine, as well as how the EMA had interpreted research data.
A final decision regarding distribution of AstraZeneca‘s vaccine in Finland is expected on Wednesday.
“It would be good to make the recommendations this week, because the vaccines are coming to the country reasonably soon. Then we will need to have jointly-agreed recommendations on how municipalities should admini this vaccine,” Nohynek said.