Since the turn of the millennium, there have been two pandemics: the swine influenza pandemic that occurred around a decade ago and the pandemic caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which started in spring 2020. The World Health Organisation (WHO), which is part of the UN, is the organisation responsible for declaring pandemics.
An influenza pandemic is a situation where the influenza caused by an influenza virus spreads around the world. In such cases, many more people contract the influenza and potentially many more die than in a normal, annual influenza epidemic.
Normally, after a pandemic, a new virus type displaces the previous virus type and the previous type then becomes a seasonal influenza virus. This is what has happened, for example, to influenza type A(H1N1), also known as swine influenza, which caused a pandemic a decade ago.
The COVID-19 pandemic
In December 2019, an epidemic caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 began in the city of Wuhan and then spread across the world. In March 2020, the WHO declared it to be a worldwide pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 causes a new infectious disease known as COVID-19.
Coronaviruses are a typical cause of common colds. There have previously been other coronaviruses that lead to severe and even fatal infections. These include the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) coronaviruses. The SARS and MERS epidemics were successfully contained and so did not become pandemics.
Remdesivir has received in Europe, via an accelerated marketing authorisation process, a conditional marketing authorisation as the first medicinal product to be used against COVID-19 disease. Research is currently being carried out on many different medicinal products for treating COVID-19 disease. Several vaccines against COVID-19 are also under development.
The duties of Fimea in pandemic preparedness and pandemic response
Fimea is responsible for general preparedness in the supply of medicines, as defined in law and in accordance with the guidelines and emphases set by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, and it also handles its other statutory duties during pandemics.
Fimea’s pandemic management operations include:
acting as the competent authority to monitor and guide different organisations in order to ensure the functionality of medicine supply and healthcare and the sufficiency and availability of medicines
acting as the competent authority for marketing authorisation processes and pharmacovigilance
monitoring the adverse effects of medicines and vaccines (monitoring of the adverse effects of vaccines is carried out in cooperation with the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare)
monitoring and assessing the availability of medicines and assisting ministries in matters relating to reserve supplies of medicines and medical equipment
providing expert assistance and questions relating to medicines, blood and tissue products, and medical equipment
Fimea has the capacity to gather together real-time data on medicinal supplies at the nationwide level (pharmaceutical wholesalers, hospital pharmacies, and pharmacies) and to use this data to produce forecasts on the sufficiency of these supplies.