Finland widens scope of 2nd COVID-19 booster dose recommendation

HELSINKI, May 5 (Xinhua) -- The Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) on Thursday recommended municipalities provide a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine to those who are undergoing home or family care, as well as to elderly people with impaired health.

THL said the recommendation is based on up-to-date monitoring data on the corona pandemic and the protective efficacy of vaccines, as well as the opinion of the National Vaccination Expert Group (KRAR).

Previously, a fourth vaccine dose was recommended for severely immunocompromised people aged over 12, people over 80, and all elderly people living in nursing homes.

There had been expectations in the medical community that the age limit for the fourth dose, or the second booster dose, would be lowered. Several EU countries give the fourth dose to all those over 65.

However, THL Director Mika Salminen emphasized that Finnish legislation on vaccines requires that they are given on medical grounds only.

In Finland, 87.5 percent of those aged over 18 have received two doses, while about 51 percent of those aged over 80 have received the fourth dose.

The fourth dose can be given three months after the third.

Merit Melin, director of research at THL, said that the health benefit from boosters is more significant during epidemic waves, and not now as case numbers are receding. "The longer the time between the third and fourth doses, the better the response."

The number of diagnosed COVID-19 infections has continued declining for five weeks now, but the number of deaths has increased. During the last two weeks of April, 600 people needed specialized hospital care, while 38 required intensive care and 474 people died.

THL expects infections to increase again in the autumn, and urged healthcare services to begin preparing for a new wave.

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