Finnish National Vaccination Register and monitoring of the vaccination programme

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) maintains a Finnish national vaccination register. Vaccination data are collected directly from patient record systems. The vaccination register covers vaccinations given in public primary health care. The data is also obtained on vaccinations administered in specialist medical care and private health care. 

Purposes of the national vaccination register

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare monitors and evaluates the coverage of the national vaccination programme through the national vaccination register.

You cannot check the vaccination data of an individual person in the vaccination register.

The vaccination register can be used to

  • produce data about national and regional vaccination coverage
  • monitor changes in vaccination coverage in nearly real time
  • examine vaccination coverage per population group and specific time period.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare monitors the impacts of the vaccination programme together with municipal health care professionals. The vaccination register enables health centres to

  • obtain information about local vaccination coverage
  • compare their own vaccination coverage with the coverage in nearby municipalities and Finland as a whole
  • assess the vaccination protection of the population in their region and develop local vaccination activities.

The introduction of the vaccination register has enabled eliminating laborious and slow sampling studies and the reporting system for influenza vaccinations, which produced information with a delay. 

The vaccination register produces knowledge on the benefits of vaccination

Before a new vaccine is included the vaccination programme, its necessity is thoroughly assessed. The benefits of vaccinations are also monitored after the vaccine has been included in the programme. The best possible information on how the vaccinations have affected the incidence of diseases prevented by them must always be available. For example, combining up-to-date data on national influenza vaccination with the influenza cases recorded in the National Infectious Diseases Register enables nearly real-time tracking of the effectiveness of influenza vaccinations.

The national vaccination register is used to monitor the safety of vaccinations

The vaccination register is needed when determining the causal link between vaccinations and suspected adverse effects.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare has maintained a national register of adverse reactions to vaccinations which includes reports of detected or suspected adverse reactions filed by health care professionals. However, the system cannot be used to establish a causal link between vaccinations and suspected adverse effects. This requires information about the incidence of symptoms or diseases in both vaccinated and non-vaccinated people. 

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare maintains several national health registers in Finland, which are exceptionally comprehensive and reliable from an international perspective. Combining vaccination register data with national health registers provides the most reliable information about a possible connection between vaccinations and their suspected adverse effects. For example, combining register data has shown that taking the swine flu vaccine during the winter season 2009–2010 did not increase the risk of complications during pregnancy.

Monitoring the vaccination programme

The THL Department of Health Security examines the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines included in the vaccination programme. The examination has a statutory basis.

The department also examines the cost-effectiveness of vaccinations, for example, when introducing a new vaccine into the market. Moreover, the department charts hesitation related to vaccinations and the underlying reasons.

  • The need to reform the vaccination programme is continuously assessed based on monitoring and research data. The need for reform is also assessed when a new vaccine is introduced to the market. 
  • When examining the cost-effectiveness of a new vaccine, the topics of examination include determining what health benefits are gained when vaccinations are used to prevent diseases that temporarily or permanently reduce people's quality of life.
  • The effectiveness of the vaccination programme is monitored and assessed with the help of population-based national health care registers, for example by comparing the disease situation before and after vaccination is started.
  • The vaccination register also enables carrying out impact and safety studies to compare cases of disease in vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. 
  • While some people feel hesitant about vaccinations, some fail to take vaccinations due to practical reasons.  A person may simply forget about a scheduled vaccination appointment, for instance. 

The Public Health Solutions unit conducts research related to vaccines funded by the private sector or jointly funded.