Targeted diseases

Vaccines are used to create immunity against infectious diseases. Many of these diseases have already been eradicated from Finland, and vaccines have also reduced their incidence worldwide.

Cervical cancer (human papillomavirus infections)

The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most significant cause of cervical cancer. There are about 100 different types of HPV. Of the different types, HPV 16 and HPV 18 cause 70 per cent of cancer cases. The virus can be spread by sexual intercourse and oral sex. Using a condom reduces the risk of infection. By preventing papilloma infections, the HPV vaccine helps prevent the precursors of cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancer, as well as actual cases of cancer. For optimal effectiveness, the vaccine should be administered before the individual becomes sexually active. The vaccine is included in the National Immunisation Programme for girls aged 11–12.

Chickenpox

A highly contagious disease caused by the varicella zoster virus. The symptoms appear 10–20 days after infection. The characteristic rash spreads as small spots that eventually get larger and turn into itchy blisters. This is followed by the drying and scabbing stage, during which the blisters can develop a bacterial infection. Chickenpox blisters can also appear in other parts of the body, such as the mouth and lungs. The symptoms of chickenpox are more severe among adolescents, adults and pregnant women than in children. The sequelae of chickenpox include pneumonia and encephalitis. The virus remains in the body after the illness and it can be activated many years later, causing a painful condition known as shingles.

The chickenpox vaccine has recently been added to the National Immunisation Programme. During a six-year period starting from autumn 2017, supplementary vaccines will be administered to children under 12 years of age who have not had chickenpox.  Going forward, children will receive the vaccination at the ages of 18 months and six years.  The vaccination is also available to employees and trainees who work in customer/patient premises in social services and health care and who have not had chickenpox.

Cholera

A dangerous bacterial disease that results in severe diarrhoea. Spreads easily via faeces or contaminated food and drinks. Mainly found in countries with poor hygiene and a lack of clean water. Natural disasters and armed conflicts can lead to cholera epidemics. People in cholera-endemic areas should avoid uncooked food and seafood in particular and be mindful of proper hand and toilet hygiene. The vaccine is not included in the National Immunisation Programme. The vaccine can be purchased by prescription from pharmacies and medical centres.

Diphtheria

A bacterial infection of the throat that can also extend to the larynx and bronchial tubes. The diphtheria bacteria excrete a strong toxin that can damage the nervous system and heart muscle. The disease is spread via respiratory droplets, saliva, kissing and sharing water bottles, for example. Diphtheria is rare in Finland due to immunisation. The vaccine is included in the National Immunisation Programme.

Haemophilus diseases

Several diseases caused by the Haemophilus influenzae bacteria, such as meningitis. epiglottitis, pneumonia and sepsis. The diseases are spread via respiratory droplets. There are six subtypes of H. influenzae bacteria, with type B causing severe illnesses, as well as a nontypeable form that causes otitis media and sinusitis. The Hib vaccine against H. influenzae type B is part of the National Immunisation Programme.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an infectious disease of the liver caused by a virus that spreads via food and drink contaminated with faeces. Infection may originate from improperly cooked food, contaminated drinking water and ice cubes. Besides yellowing eyes and skin, the symptoms include fever and diarrhea. Hepatitis A infection can sometimes even lead to acute liver failure. The disease usually passes in 2–4 weeks, but fatigue may remain for months after the infection has subsided. Vaccination against hepatitis A is recommended based on a country-specific risk of infection, with high risk areas including especially Africa, Asia, and Middle and South America. The vaccine is included for risk groups in the National Immunisation Programme.

Hepatitis B

A serious, infectious and long-term inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. Very common around the world. The virus can be transmitted by unprotected sexual intercourse, exposure to infectious blood during a medical procedure, piercings and from an infected mother during pregnancy or childbirth. The symptoms include nausea, fatigue and yellowish skin. Some people who are infected go on to develop chronic hepatitis B, which increases their risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer. The vaccine is included for risk groups in the National Immunisation Programme.

Influenza

A respiratory infectious disease that involves fever and is often severe. Spreads via respiratory droplets. During the annual influenza epidemic, which usually begins around the turn of the year and lasts for 6–8 weeks, the virus typically infects 5–15 per cent of the population. Healthy adults generally recover from influenza after 1–2 weeks of bed rest. In young children, the elderly and people with underlying illnesses, influenza can lead to sequelae, such as ear infections or pneumonia, or even death. The influenza vaccine is included in the National Immunisation Programme for young children, people over 65 years of age, members of risk groups and their household contacts and carers, social and health care personnel and conscripts.

Japanese encephalitis

A severe viral infection of the brain that is spread by mosquitoes. Found extensively in Asia. The symptoms, fever and headache, are mild in most cases. In some cases, the disease develops into meningitis or encephalitis, or causes permanent neurological damage. While only a small proportion of infections lead to the full-blown disease, as many as 30% of the symptomatic cases are fatal. The risk of infection is low for tourists who do not spend much time in rural areas. Protection from mosquitoes is nevertheless important, especially during the dark times of the day. The vaccine is not included in the National Immunisation Programme. The vaccine can be purchased by prescription from pharmacies and medical centres.

Malaria

A serious and life-threatening disease caused by a parasitic protozoan that spreads via mosquito bites. The symptoms include fever, tremors, chills and nausea. Malaria is particularly found in tropical Africa, parts of Oceania and South Asia. As there is no vaccine for the disease, antimalarial medications are used for prevention. The choice of antimalarial is influenced by regional resistance, the traveller’s age, other medication used, potential pregnancy, chronic illnesses and the duration of the trip. Antimalarial drugs do not provide complete protection from malaria. Protection from mosquitoes is essential in areas where malaria is endemic, particularly during the dark times of the day. This includes wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks, using mosquito repellents and sleeping under a mosquito net.

Measles

A viral infection that often starts with respiratory symptoms and inflamed eyes. These symptoms are followed by a rash that starts on the face. The disease can later develop into pneumonia or otitis media. Inflammation of the brain is the most feared sequela of measles. Measles is spread via respiratory droplets and is highly contagious. In the absence of immunity, more than 90 per cent of those who come in contact with a measles patient will be infected. Measles has been almost entirely eradicated from Finland. There are only a few cases per year. Measles remain common and deadly around the world, and even Finland faces a genuine risk of an epidemic due to the vaccination coverage being too low in certain places. The vaccine is included in the National Immunisation Programme.

 

Meningococcal diseases

Meningococcal bacteria spread via respiratory droplets and can cause meningitis, a severe systemic infection or even sepsis leading to rapid death. Meningococcal diseases are particularly found in Sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia. There are also occasional small local epidemics in Europe, most recently in Norway in 2013. There are many types of meningococcal bacteria, with A, B, C, W and Y being the most significant. Vaccines are available against the ABCWY serogroups. In the National Immunisation Programme, meningococcal vaccinations are administered to conscripts.

Mumps

Mumps is a viral infection of the salivary glands. The symptoms are fever and swelling of the salivary glands and the neck area. The complications of mumps may include testicular inflammation and meningitis. Testicular inflammation can cause infertility. As recently as in the 1980s, mumps was the most common cause of meningitis. Mumps has been eradicated from Finland thanks to immunisation, but cases still occur in other parts of the world. The vaccine is included in the National Immunisation Programme.

Pneumococcal diseases

Pneumococcus is a significant cause of severe bacterial infections, such as meningitis and sepsis. Pneumococcus infection is often the cause of middle ear infections in young children. Pneumonia and systemic infections caused by pneumococcus, which spreads via respiratory droplets, constitute the most significant fatal infectious diseases besides influenza. Nearly all fatal cases involve senior citizens and people of working age who have an underlying illness. The vaccine is included in the National Immunisation Programme for young children and patients receiving stem cell therapy.

  • Lääkeinfo.fi: Synflorix (in Finnish)
    • Conjugate vaccine (PCV10) for children under five years of age
    • For infants as part of the National Immunisation Programme
  • Lääkeinfo.fi: Prevenar 13 (in Finnish)
    • Conjugate vaccine (PCV13) for children and adults
    • In the National Immunisation Programme for stem cell transplant patients only
    • Recommended for people over 65 years of age and risk groups (available from pharmacies by prescription)
  • Lääkeinfo.fi: Pneumovax (in Finnish)
    • Polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23) for children over two years of age and adults
    • As a booster and supplementary vaccine for individuals who have previously received the conjugate vaccine, at the physician’s discretion
      • In the National Immunisation Programme for stem cell transplant patients and 2–4-year-old children in risk groups
      • For members of risk groups and people over 65 years of age from pharmacies by prescription
  • THL, Infectious diseases: Pneumococcus (in Finnish)
  • THL, Immunisation: Pneumococcal vaccine (in Finnish)
Polio

A viral disease that infects children in particular. The disease is asymptomatic in most cases. In some cases, the symptoms progress from fever, a sore throat and feeling unwell to meningitis, encephalitis or paralysis. Post-polio symptoms, such as fatigue, muscle pain and joint pain, can appear years after the acute disease. Although polio has been eradicated from Finland thanks to a comprehensive immunisation programme, polio still occurs in Asia and Africa, for example. The vaccine is included in the National Immunisation Programme.

Rabies

Rabies is a deadly viral disease that causes inflammation of the brain. Rabies is spread via the bite of an infected animal, or by having an infected animal lick punctured skin. The initial symptoms of fever, headache and feeling unwell may not start until weeks after infection. Subsequent symptoms can include hallucinations and convulsions triggered by swallowing. These symptoms can even be triggered by the sight of water, which is why the disease was historically known as hydrophobia. Once symptoms begin, the disease is untreatable and fatal. While there is rabies in Finland, the disease remains very common even in Finland’s neighbouring areas in Russia and the Baltic countries. Rabies can be spread by stray dogs, for example. The vaccine is not included in the National Immunisation Programme. The vaccine can be purchased by prescription from pharmacies and medical centres.

  • Rabies-Imovax (pdf) (in Finnish)
    • Leisure travellers must pay for the vaccine themselves
    • Rabies vaccinations for people exposed to the rabies virus due to work-related reasons are paid by the employer
    • Individuals exposed to the rabies virus must always be vaccinated. In Finland, the treatment provider pays for the vaccines in such cases.
  • THL, Infectious diseases: Rabies (in Finnish)
  • THL, Traveller’s Health Guide: Rabies (in Finnish)
Rotavirus infection

Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhoea and vomiting among infants and young children. The symptoms of watery diarrhoea and vomiting, and occasional fever, typically last five days. The disease is less common and less severe in adults. The disease involves the risk of dehydration, particularly for young infants. The virus spreads via respiratory droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces, such as toys and door knobs. While rotavirus-related deaths are rare in Finland, it is estimated that more than half a million children die of the disease each year in third-world countries. The vaccine is included in the National Immunisation Programme.

Rubella

A viral disease that is often mild. Spread by respiratory droplets, the symptoms of rubella include fever, irritated mucous membranes and swollen lymph nodes. The faint rash spreads from the head to the trunk and limbs. The rash often fades quickly. Rubella can have a negative effect on a fetus in early pregnancy. The risk of fetal defects is as high as 75 per cent. The incidence of foetal defects does not depend on whether the mother is symptomatic. Rubella has been eradicated from Finland, but it is still found elsewhere in Europe. The vaccine is included in the National Immunisation Programme.

Shingles

Chickenpox leaves behind the varicella zoster virus. If the virus is reactivated, it causes a painful condition known as shingles. In addition to a rash with blisters, some people develop ongoing severe nerve pain that can last for months or years. Approximately one out of four people who get chickenpox will eventually get shingles at some stage of life, usually after 50 years of age. The risk and severity of the illness and prolonged nerve pain increase with age. The shingles vaccine can reduce the risk of illness and nerve pain. The vaccine is not included in the National Immunisation Programme. The vaccine can be purchased by prescription from pharmacies and medical centres.

Tetanus

A life-threatening disease caused by bacteria commonly found in soil. The potential sources of infection include animal bites and having a cut or puncture wound contaminated by soil or sand. The bacteria multiply in the wound and release a neurotoxin into the bloodstream. Even a small quantity of the toxin interferes with nerve function in muscles. Advanced cases of tetanus lead to respiratory failure. The vaccine is included in the National Immunisation Programme.

  • Lääkeinfo.fi: diTeBooster (in Finnish)
    • Tetanus and diphtheria vaccine (dT)
    • In the National Immunisation Programme for boosters administered to adults
  • Lääkeinfo.fi: diTekiBooster (in Finnish)
    • Diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough vaccine (dtap)
    • In the National Immunisation Programme for 14–15-year-olds and 25-year-olds
  • Lääkeinfo.fi: Infanrix-Polio+Hib (in Finnish)
    • Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and Hib vaccine (DTaP-IPV-Hib)
    • For infants as part of the National Immunisation Programme
  • Lääkeinfo: Pentavac​ (in Finnish)
    • Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and Hib vaccine (DTaP-IPV-Hib)
    • For infants as part of the National Immunisation Programme, there is a small batch of Pentavac vaccine available
  • Lääkeinfo.fi: Tetravac (in Finnish)
    • Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio vaccine (DTaP-IPV)
    • Indicated for 4-year-olds in the National Immunisation Programme
  • Lääkeinfo.fi: Boostrix (in Finnish)
    • Diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough vaccine (dtap)
    • The National Immunisation Programme is shifting from Boostrix to diTekiBooster
  • THL, Infectious diseases: Tetanus (in Finnish)
  • Duodecim medical reference book: Tetanus (in Finnish)
Tick-borne encephalitis

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a viral disease spread by ticks. The virus can also be transmitted in unpasteurised milk. More than half of the infections are asymptomatic. Just over one week after being bitten by a tick, the patient develops a fever that lasts slightly less than a week. In one third of the cases, the disease continues after a fever-free period of 3–21 days as recurring high fever and central nervous system symptoms. The symptoms go on for a long time for some patients. In Finland, the ticks that spread the disease are primarily found on the Åland Islands and coastal areas, including the Turku archipelago. National Institute of Health and Welfate defines risk areas each year and the residents or long-term residents are vaccinated in the National Immunisation Programme. Ticks also spread Lyme disease, for which there is no vaccine. 

Tuberculosis

A common, globally significant and deadly infectious bacterial disease. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but it can also affect other organs. The symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis are sputum and a cough that can last for as long as several months. The majority of those infected remain asymptomatic through their entire lives, but symptoms can appear decades after infection due to reduced immune function caused by aging, for example. While tuberculosis is mainly a problem in third-world countries, the disease is also found in Russia and the Baltic countries. The vaccine is included for risk groups in the National Immunisation Programme.

Typhoid fever

A severe bacterial systemic infection caused by the Salmonella Typhi bacteria, which can be acquired from unclean water and contaminated or improperly cooked food. With symptoms including high fever, headache, stomach pain, diarrhoea or constipation, this disease can lead to serious complications and is estimated to be responsible for as many as 600,000 deaths per year, mainly in the developing countries. The disease is typically found outside urban areas in Asia, Africa and South America. Vaccination should be considered for those travelling to high risk areas and staying there for longer than a couple of weeks. The vaccine is not included in the National Immunisation Programme. The vaccine can be purchased by prescription from pharmacies and medical centres.

Whooping cough (pertussis)

A bacterial disease that causes extended flu-like symptoms and, if the disease drags on, severe coughing fits. The bacteria spread via respiratory droplets and produce toxins that damage the mucous membranes and incapacitate the body’s defense mechanisms. In infants, whooping cough can cause interruptions in breathing and the condition may be life-threatening. The vaccine is included in the National Immunisation Programme.

Yellow fever

An acute and often fatal viral disease categorised as a haemorrhagic fever. Spread by mosquitoes. In addition to fever and nausea, the disease can cause renal and hepatic failure as well as hemorrhaging. Yellow fever is found in tropical regions, particularly outside urban areas, and in the jungles and savannahs of Africa, Central America and South America. Some countries require visitors to present certificate of yellow fever vaccination on entry. The vaccine is not included in the National Immunisation Programme. The vaccine can be purchased by prescription from pharmacies and medical centres.

Page published 10.4.2018
Page edited 13.12.2018