Proposal for amending Government Decree on Voluntary COVID-19 Vaccinations circulated for comments — Small children at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 could be vaccinated in future
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health requests comments on a proposal for amending the Government Decree on Voluntary COVID-19 Vaccinations. The amendment would make it possible to offer COVID-19 vaccines to children aged six months or over. Under the Decree currently in force, the minimum age for children to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is five years. The deadline for submitting comments is 5 January 2023.
On 19 October 2022, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended the approval of mRNA vaccines for children over six months, and the European Commission approved the expansion of the marketing authorisations for these vaccines. Finland has procured a vaccine product that is suitable for use in this age group.
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare recommends that COVID-19 vaccines be offered, using individual discretion, to those children between the ages of six months and 11 years whose underlying health condition may increase their risk of developing a more serious form of the COVID-19 disease. The recommendation is based on the opinion of the National Advisory Committee on Vaccines (KRAR) and its sub-committee’s background reports and positions.
The COVID-19 vaccines in question have been deemed safe for children over six months of age. This means that the vaccines have not been found to have any serious side effects. The majority of the side effects reported have been mild local symptoms or temporary moderate reactions (fever and fatigue). However, there is only a limited amount of clinical data available on COVID-19 vaccines for children between the ages of six months and four years. We therefore need more research-based knowledge.
Serious cases of COVID-19 in children are rare. The number of children being hospitalised due to a COVID-19 infection increased in Finland in late 2021 and early 2022, but the number has dropped since then. Studies have found that underlying health conditions increase the risk of a serious form of the disease in children. In Finland, hospitalised children have had, for example, immunodeficiencies, chronic heart and lung diseases and neurological diseases and conditions.
The effectiveness and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines for children as well as the development of the epidemic will continue to be monitored, and if necessary, the recommendations will be amended.
Anni-Riitta Virolainen-Julkunen, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Medical Affairs, anni-riitta.virolainen-julkunen(at)gov.fi
Liisa Katajamäki, Senior Ministerial Adviser, liisa.katajamaki(at)gov.fi