Annika Virpi Irene Saarikko was born in Oripää on 10 November 1983. He is married to Erkki Papunen, who is a lawyer. Their son Aarni was born in 2014 and Kaarlo in September 2019. Saarikko and her family live in Oripää.
In 2002, Saarikko completed her general upper secondary education in Lauttakylä Upper Secondary School in Huittinen. She earned the degree of Bachelor of Education at the University of Turku in 2008 and graduated with a Master of Arts degree in media studies in spring 2013.
During the electoral term 2007–2011, she served as Special Adviser to several ministers representing the Centre Party.
In Juha Sipilä’s Government, she served as Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services in 2017–2019. In the Government led by Prime Minister Antti Rinne she served as Minister of Science and Culture for some two months prior to starting her maternity leave in early August 2019. She returned to her post as Minister of Science and Culture on 6 August 2020.
In addition to politics, Saarikko has worked in the fields of media and communications.
Saarikko was elected Chairman of the Center Party of Finland in September 2020. Saarikko was Deputy Party Leader in 2010–2016. In 2011, she was elected as Member of Parliament for the first time. She served as a member of the Turku City Council between 2013 and spring 2020.