Finnish President Slams EU Vaccine Program, Says Direct Purchases Are an Option
By Staff, Agencies
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has criticized the European Union over its joint procurement program for coronavirus vaccines.
In particular, Niinisto expressed criticism of the European Medicines Agency [EMA], the body that approves vaccines in the EU, saying it was "far behind" on the AstraZeneca vaccine and that "now Johnson & Johnson is lagging behind too".
"Which vaccines have been ordered and what binding commitments were made? There's no doubt they should have done better at this. We have examples of countries that have been more successful than the EU in getting vaccines for themselves", the Finnish president said in an interview with the newspaper Ilta-Sanomat.
The president cited fellow EU countries, such as Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia that have used their own medical authorities and secured vaccines outside of the EU's approval process. He called this idea "interesting", yet replied indirectly on whether Finland should follow suit, adding that "all possibilities must be assessed openly".
Niinisto confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had offered to supply Finland with technology for producing the Sputnik V vaccine as early as January. Last week, this issue was raised again by the speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, in talks with former Finnish president Tarja Halonen within the framework of the WHO's European COVID-19 Group.
However, Niinisto indicated that Finland would not move forward until the EMA gives the Sputnik V vaccine the green light for EU use, though.
Niinisto additionally suggested that restrictions on movement may once again prove necessary to rein in the spread of infectious new coronavirus variants within Finland. As he put it, Finland is in a situation where there will only be more problems, and cited increasing disease rates. In the spring of 2020, Finland saw a state of emergency, with the populous Uusimaa region of southern Finland, which includes the capital area, cordoned off for most traffic.
The Justice Ministry and the majority of Finnish parties also agreed to postpone municipal elections from 18 April to 13 June due to the coronavirus situation. Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson cited a morbid report provided to her by the National Institute for Health and Welfare [THL], saying that with the current infection trends Finland could see daily new infection levels of up to 11,200 by mid-April.
Overall, Finland has seen over 62,063 COVID-19 cases with 767 deaths. While considerably lower than in neighboring Sweden, Finland has seen many more restrictions and lockdowns.
However, as the infection rates continue to increase, with the latest daily record of 797 cases last week, Finland has been re-introducing some of the restrictions after a lull, including the closure of bars and restaurants.