Sunday 8/1/21
TOURISM

Travel from Finland: insufficient vaccination, very expensive testing

A rapid antigen test for travelers costs 25 euros at Madrid airport, but at Helsinki-Vantaa airport they charge 179 euros
Travelers about to undergo a security check at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Photo: Foreigner.fi.
Travelers about to undergo a security check at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Photo: Foreigner.fi.

Finnish authorities say the process of immunization against the coronavirus is progressing at a good pace in the Nordic country. However, vaccination does not go so fast as to make summer trips easier. At least not for the young.

According to official figures, there is a significant percentage of the population (61.9%) that have already received at least the first jab.

But the percentage of those completely vaccinated is only 22.9% and they are almost all elderly people. Finland is now providing the second dose to those aged 65-74.

Many young and middle-aged Finnish residents will not travel abroad this summer simply because they will not receive in time the second dose that would free them from having to present more (and very expensive) certificates at the airport.

The Finnish health authorities imposed a time interval of nearly three months between the two doses of Pfizer and Moderna, the main vaccines used in the 5.5 million country. In most European states, citizens receive the second dose only three weeks after the first, as recommended by vaccine manufacturers.

Finland's decision to delay the second jab is causing difficulties for travelers and forces many people to undergo PCR or antigen tests, which in Finland are much more expensive than in the rest of Europe, in order to travel abroad.

For example, for an antigen test that costs 25 euros at the Madrid airport, in Helsinki-Vantaa airport they charge 179 euros. And the airport is one of the cheapest places for testing.

Prices charged on 11 July at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport testing center. Photo: © Foreigner.fi.Prices charged on at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport testing center (11 July 2021). Photo: © Foreigner.fi.

Finnish people can undergo a Covid-19 test for free at a public health center if have symptoms of the disease. But in those cases the public authorities refuse to issue a test certificate valid for travel. At the time of writing this article, the magic papers for travel are only provided by private health operators. So, if someone says they need a test and certificate to travel, they tell them to go to a private center.

Nordic social justice, a hidden traveler tax, or just a great business opportunity for some companies? Let each reader judge.

Immunization improved

Under the regulation currently in force, only people who are fully vaccinated - meaning with two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Janssen - and those who have already passed the Covid-19 disease can download for free the European digital certificate that enables to travel without additional testing.

The rest have no choice but to visit a private provider, get a stick up their nose and pay huge amounts of money for the stamped certificate proving virus free.

Meanwhile, authorities explain that a longer time interval between the two doses improves immunization.

“Second doses of the vaccine are now given primarily to people aged 65-74. The second dose of the vaccine is important because the second vaccine provides longer-lasting and more effective protection against the coronavirus and the serious disease caused by its Delta variant,” says Hanna Nohynek, chief physician at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The Janssen drug (also known as Johnson and Johnson) is not even administered in Finland. Health authorities decided not to use it following reports of rare cases of blood clots in the United States.

Young people

Currently, residents in the 20-29 age bracket are applying for appointments to receive the first dose of the vaccine. According to a statement from THL, almost half of them have received the first jab.

“It is good that young people have been actively booking vaccination times. Currently, most coronavirus infections are in younger age groups, so more and more young people should apply for coronary vaccination, ”says Mia Kontio, THL's leading expert.

According to THL, 61.9% of the population already have received the first dose of the vaccine, a percentage that represents 3,440,351 people. And 22.9% (or 1,275,328 persons) have already received the second dose. 74% of those over 16 years of age already have the first dose and 27% the second.

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