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Finland to Launch World’s First Preemptive Bird Flu Vaccination Program for High-Risk Workers

Finland is set to become the first country globally to offer preemptive bird flu vaccinations to workers with exposure to animals, health authorities announced on Tuesday. The initiative aims to mitigate the risk of avian influenza (H5N1) transmission to humans.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) disclosed that the country has acquired vaccines for 10,000 individuals, each requiring two injections. This procurement is part of a larger joint European Union effort to secure up to 40 million doses from the Australian manufacturer CSL Seqirus. In a statement to Reuters, CSL Seqirus confirmed that Finland would be the first nation to implement this vaccination program.

“The vaccine will be offered to those aged 18 or over who are at increased risk of contracting avian influenza due to their work or other circumstances,” THL announced. The program primarily targets workers in fur and poultry farms, laboratory technicians handling bird flu samples, and veterinarians involved in animal control in fur farm regions. Additionally, workers in wildlife sanctuaries, livestock farms, and those cleaning animal by-product processing plants will be eligible for the vaccine.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has led to the death or culling of hundreds of millions of poultry worldwide in recent years and has been increasingly spreading to mammals, including incidents in the United States. While Finland has not yet detected the virus in humans, the country is taking proactive measures due to transmission risks from its fur farms. Last year, widespread bird flu outbreaks among mink and foxes at Finland’s mostly open-air fur farms resulted in the culling of approximately 485,000 animals to prevent further spread.

“Conditions in Finland are very different in that we have fur farms where the animals can end up in contact with wildlife,” explained Chief Physician Hanna Nohynek of THL. The country is poised to begin vaccinations as early as next week in certain areas.

In the event of a human infection, close contacts of suspected or confirmed cases will also be offered the vaccine. This strategic move highlights Finland’s commitment to preventing a potential public health crisis by addressing avian influenza risks proactively.

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