The first Covid-19 vaccines could get the green light from European authorities before the end of the year, according to Finnish public health officials.
Speaking at a Tuesday morning press conference, officials said that regulatory authorisation for some of the six vaccines purchased in bulk by the EU for Member States could be expected around Christmas or New Year.
“We are now awaiting these marketing authorizations, after which the next phase of acquisition will begin” said Sari Ekholm, Chief Physician at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health STM.
That timeline means that vaccinations will probably begin in the new year, with doses of the new drugs arriving in several batches. The start of Finland’s domestic vaccination programme, where everyone will be offered the inoculation for free, depends on when the new vaccines arrive. Other factors, like whether municipalities have the right facilities for deep cold storage of one of the vaccines, will play a part in the roll-out strategy.
The first people to get one of the first vaccines likely to receive early regulatory approval, from Pfizer-Biontch, Moderna or Astra Zeneca, will be frontline medical staff treating coronavirus patients; the elderly and those most at risk for developing serious Covid-19 infections are also likely to be included in the first wave of vaccines.
“The efficacy [of the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine] is excellent in these preliminary results. Such good vaccines are rarely seen” says THL’s Chief Physician Hanna Nohynek. The Pfizer-Biontech vaccine must be stored at extreme cold temperatures and studies suggest it gets less effective the more often it’s moved; while one advantage of the Astra Zeneca vaccine is that it can be stored at normal refrigerator temperature.
About 550 new coronavirus infections have been reported in Finland today, with around 2.7% of all samples tested returning positive.