Coronavirus health impact felt on everyday life, as authorities gear up for vaccine rollout

European regulators are set to meet earlier than they previously planned, just before Christmas, with a view to approving the first coronafvirus vaccine head of schedule.

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Coronavirus graphic / Credit: iStock

An extensive new study from THL shows how the impact of the coronavirus crisis this year has been felt across the whole country – but most keenly in the Uusimaa region when it comes to provision of healthcare.

The FinSote survey from THL highlights clear differences between health and social services departments in how therapy appointments have been postponed or cancelled; how the epidemic has weakened the economic and social situation of the population; and how the epidemic has affected lifestyles.

For example in Uusimaa the number of missed or canceled appointments for doctors and nurses was significantly higher than in other areas, especially for the elderly. In Eastern Uusimaa 1-in-3 visits to  a doctor or nurse has not taken place as planned since the beginning of March 2020; meanwhile 1-in-4 people aged over 55 in Helsinki, Vantaa-Kerava and Western Uusimaa have canceled or postponed their medical visits. The lowest changes to planned treatments occurred in North Ostrobothnia affecting 15% of pationts over 55. The national average is 22%.

“Cancelled or postponed visits are a cause of concern, as the accumulation of service needs and postponement of treatment may lead to a worsening of health problems and an increase in the need for assistance in the longer term” explains Anna-Mari Aalto, THL Chief Specialist.

Levels of loneliness also increased this year, again with Helsinki faring badly. In the capital city about 44% of survey respondents said they experienced loneliness – the national average is 32%.

File picture of vaccine / Credit: iStock

Covid-19 vaccine rollout for healthcare staff well in hand

Meanwhile the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District, the largest in Finland, says their plans to start a comprehensive Covid-19 vaccination programme for healthcare staff are well underway.

The first in line to receive the new vaccines, when they come to Finland after being approved by European regulators, will be staff involved in treating coronavirus patients.

“We have years of experience in staff flu vaccinations. Coronavirus vaccinations will differ from influenza vaccinations in that vaccinations will progress in stages depending on the person’s job” explains Eeva Ruotsalainen, Assistant Chief Medical Officer.

HUS will introduce an online appointment system, similar to the coronavirus testing system already in place, to allow staff to book a time for their shots.

The news comes as EU regulators will bring forward a decision on the safety of the first vaccine under review, from Pfizer-BioNTech, after authorities stepped up pressure for a faster decision – making it clear they expected approval to start using the drug, if it is safe, before Christmas.

The Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency will now meet on 21st December, rather than 29th December, to approve the new vaccine for rollout across the EU.