Booster doses of late autumn with new variant-tailored coronavirus vaccine – vaccinations of the most fragile groups can be brought forward

Publication date 21 Sep 2023

A new variant-tailored vaccine for COVID-19 will be utilised as booster doses of late autumn 2023 vaccinations. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) recommends the booster doses for elderly people and certain risk groups. THL recommends that the booster doses of late autumn be given at the same time as influenza vaccines. Wellbeing services counties may, at their own discretion, bring forward the vaccination schedule for the most fragile people in at-risk groups. 

XBB.1.5 vaccines are currently being delivered to the wellbeing services counties. The wellbeing services counties are responsible for organising the vaccinations and informing the residents about where and when the vaccine is available. There are currently no plans to use the already existing BA.4/5 coronavirus vaccines in Finland as booster doses of late autumn. 

Some European countries are considering or have already decided to bring forward the coronavirus vaccinations before the influenza vaccinations for those at the highest risk of severe disease. 

"The coronavirus situation in Finland is calm at the moment. However, health authorities should be prepared for the possibility of bringing forward the booster vaccinations for the people in at-risk groups who have the highest risks due to high age or underlying illnesses. These include, for example, people with severe immune deficiencies and people living in long-term care institutions for the elderly," explains Hanna Nohynek, Chief Physician at THL.

High age is the most significant risk factor for severe coronavirus disease. People over the age of 80 are at greater risk of developing a severe coronavirus disease than those aged 65 or over, for whom a booster dose is also recommended.

Target groups for booster doses remain unchanged

The first vaccine tailored for the XBB.1.5 variant received a marketing authorisation at the beginning of September. According to the currently valid joint procurement agreement, more than one million doses of the vaccine will be delivered to Finland during September. The exact number of doses will depend on how efficiently the six-dose vials are utilised. 

THL recommends the booster dose of late autumn 2023 for everyone aged 65 or over, for those aged 18 or over who are in medical at-risk groups, and for those aged 12 or over with severe immunodeficiency. The booster dose is recommended for these groups as the disease will likely become more prevalent in autumn and winter. The new booster dose is aimed at reducing the number of cases of the severe disease, the need for hospitalisation and deaths associated with COVID-19. 

There are no medical grounds for extensive vaccination of the entire population. For those under 65 years of age who do not have diseases that predispose them to severe coronavirus disease, the previously recommended three vaccine doses, including previous coronavirus infections, continue to provide good protection against severe coronavirus disease. XBB.1.5 vaccines are not expected to provide significant protection against mild coronavirus disease and infections. 

THL monitors the protective effect and safety of the vaccinations, the incidence of hospitalisation and the accumulated research data. If necessary, THL will change the vaccination recommendations on medical grounds. 

Further information

Hanna Nohynek
Chief Physician
[email protected]

Mia Kontio
Chief Specialist
[email protected]

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