Finland nears 80 percent vaccination rate, PM says still not enough

The Helsinki metro.
The Helsinki metro. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Vaccination rates in Estonia's northern neighbor, Finland, are nearing 80 percent, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Friday night.

The corresponding rate in Estonia is under 60 percent, if taking into account those who have completed a course of vaccination, while Finland has a considerably smaller number of hospitalizations due to Covid, at 241 as of Friday, out of five-and-a-half million inhabitants, compared with Estonia, with 615 hospitalizations as of Friday, out of around 1.3 million inhabitants.

However, Finland's leadership paints a less rosy picture in its public statements to the media, saying no way out of the pandemic will be forthcoming unless as high a vaccination rate as possible, and certainly in excess of 90 percent, can be met.

As of Friday, 70 percent of all Finnish residents had completed a vaccination course, while the figure for those over the age of 11 stood at 79.5 percent, AK reported.

This leaves 1.5 million unvaccinated people across Finland, while infection rates rose slightly during the recent school half-term break, and, experts say, the overall epidemiological situation is unlikely to improve any time soon.

Otto Helve, chief doctor at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, told AK that: "The situation will not change tomorrow, or in the next days or weeks. This means we are trying to increase the vaccination rate from 80 percent, to as high as possible."

One option might be to vaccinate the approximately 666,000 schoolchildren in the country who are under the age of 12, AK reported, while this potential move is under discussion with a decision likely around a month hence.

Other issues include regional variations within the, by European standards, large and sparsely populated country. Municipalities on the west coast of Finland in particular have vaccination levels comparable with Estonia's overall level, AK said.

Yle: Finnish hospitals 'filling up' with Covid patients

Meanwhile, the English-language service of public broadcaster Yle reports that Finnish hospitals are "filling up" with Covid patients despite the progress made in vaccinations.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin told Yle that: "The way I understand [family and social services] minister Kiuru's statement is that the epidemic is spreading among the unvaccinated."

"There are more cases of the disease among those who have not been vaccinated and they make up most of the burden placed on hospitals. I worry about that myself," Marin continued.

Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru, from Marin's own party, SDP, had painted a bleak picture of the Covid situation in Finland, Yle reports, with Finland now among the countries where the epidemic is out of control.

Marin said that the intention was to raise vaccination rates to around 90 percent, while stressing individual responsibility in this.

Yle also reports that the coalition parties – there are five of them – have demanded Marin convene an emergency cabinet meeting, while Marin herself said the government is to review the Covid situation next Wednesday, including looking at both the potential lifting of restrictions in some areas, and strengthening them in others – for example in restaurants.

"We are also looking at ways to expand the use of the [coronavirus] passport," Marin said

South of the Gulf of Finland, hospitalizations have exceeded the 600-mark, a figure the government had earlier called critical and beyond which measures such as further cutting scheduled treatments, and even triaging ER patients, may need to be put in place.

Negotiations had been going on between Estonian and Finnish authorities with the result that small numbers of Estonian Covid patients in a critical condition may be able to received treatment at one of several university hospitals in Finland, to help alleviate the burden on the Estonian healthcare system. The transported patients would generally come from the University of Tartu Hospital, where as of Thursday, 24 patients were in intensive care due to the virus, compared with 27 across Finland.

As of Friday Finland had posted 1,184 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began, according to Yle, compared with 1,581 in Estonia, while 162,476 cases of the coronavirus had been found in Finland from the start of the pandemic until Friday, compared with 202,629 in Estonia.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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