Bird flu vaccinations for humans begin in Finland, a global first – National

Finland plans to offer preventive vaccination against bird flu next week to some workers exposed to animals, health authorities said on Tuesday. This makes Finland the first country in the world to do this.

The Nordic country has bought vaccines for 10,000 people, each consisting of two shots, as part of a joint EU purchase of up to 40 million doses for 15 countries from manufacturer CSL Seqirus CSL.AX .

The Australian company said in a statement to Reuters that Finland would be the first country to roll out the vaccine.

“The vaccine will be offered to people aged 18 or over who are at increased risk of contracting bird flu due to their work or other circumstances,” the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) said in a statement.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed or caused the culling of hundreds of millions of poultry worldwide in recent years and has increasingly spread to mammals, including cows in the United States, and, in some cases, to humans.

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Finland has not detected the virus in humans, THL said.

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However, the country is eager to roll out vaccinations given the transmission risks posed by fur farms.

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“The conditions in Finland are very different because we have fur farms where the animals can come into contact with wild animals,” chief medical officer Hanna Nohynek of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) told Reuters.

Widespread outbreaks of bird flu among minks and foxes on Finland’s mostly open-air fur farms led to the culling of some 485,000 animals last year to prevent the virus from spreading among animals and humans.

Vaccinations are likely to start as early as next week in at least some parts of Finland, a THL spokesperson told Reuters.

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Finland said it has purchased vaccines for people it considers at risk, such as workers on fur and poultry farms, laboratory technicians processing bird flu samples and veterinarians working as animal control staff in regions where fur farms are located.

People who work in wild bird sanctuaries, on livestock farms or cleaning buildings such as animal by-product processing plants will also be offered vaccines, THL said.

If human infection with bird flu were to occur, close contacts of a suspected or confirmed case would also be offered the vaccine, it added.

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