COVID-19 in Iceland: Janssen Vaccine Granted Conditional Marketing Authorisation

A screenshot from RÚV. First COVID-19 vaccines being administered in Iceland, December 29, 2020

The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine received conditional marketing authorisation in Iceland yesterday afternoon. Europe’s Medicine’s Agency recommended a conditional marketing authorisation earlier in the day and the European Commission confirmed it. This is the fourth COVID-19 vaccine to be authorised in Iceland and the rest of Europe. It differs from other vaccines as only one dose is needed, as opposed to the two required for other vaccines.

The vaccine is intended for individuals 18 years or older and underwent clinical trials in the US, South Africa, and South America, with over 44,000 participants. The results indicate that the vaccine provides 67% protection against the virus. The most common side effects were mild or medium, such as soreness at the point of injection, headache, fatigue, muscle pain, and nausea, and passed in a few days. The vaccine’s safety and efficacy will continue to be monitored in further research by both the pharmaceutical company and Europe’s Medicines Agency.

Professor of immunology with the University of Iceland Ingileif Jónsdóttir told RÚV that research showed that the Janssen vaccine also provides protection against the South African strain of the virus as well as the Brazilian and that the efficacy was above 63% in all age groups and sexes, with people of different backgrounds as well as those with underlying diseases. She stated that the vaccine’s efficacy was good after one injection but further studies were ongoing to determine if a second injection would increase the efficacy significantly, as is the case for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Icelandic healthcare authorities have ordered 235,000 doses of the Janssen vaccine but a distribution schedule has not yet been released.

Twenty Passengers Spend Night In Breiðafjörður Ferry After Engine Failure

Breiðafjörður ferry Baldur

Breiðafjörður ferry Baldur is currently adrift outside the Stykkishólmur harbour after its turbine malfunctioned midway between Flatey and Stykkishólmur, yesterday afternoon, Skessuhorn reports. Around 20 passengers, a crew of eight, six cars and a few trucks containing 80 tonnes of salmon spent the night on board in stiff winds and high waves. The ferry was towed towards the Stykkishólmur harbour and as soon as the weather subsides, towboat Fönix will bring the ferry to the harbour.

The ferry’s engine malfunctioned at half-past two yesterday afternoon. The ferry dropped its anchors to stop the boat from drifting and Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Þór headed west, as well as research vessel Árni Friðriksson. Shortly after six, Baldur was linked to Árni Friðriksson by cables, ready to tow Baldur to Stykkishólmur. Weather conditions were challenging, with wind speeds of 18 m/s. While the ferry was slowly towed towards Stykkishólmur, both Þór and Árni Friðriksson are too big to be able to get the ferry all the way to harbour.

Passengers stayed onboard the ferry throughout the night. One of the passengers, Einar Sveinn Ólafsson, told RÚV the night started poorly, with the ferry rolling severely while Árni Friðriksson tried to turn the ferry towards the wind. “Everything went flying and people were seasick and scared.  After they turned the ferry, it has been good. Many people got berths to sleep on and people were just getting up around 8.” According to Einar, the crew had a good handle on things and took good care of the passengers.

Towboat Fönix arrived during the night to tow the ferry to harbour as soon as weather permits. This morning, the ferry, along with Árni Friðriksson, Þór, and Fönix was drifting just outside Stykkishólmur.

The Baldur’s trip today was an unscheduled one to make up for the road over Klettsháls being closed due to the weather. The ferry malfunction is especially unfortunate with the road closed as that makes transportation to and from the Westfjords difficult. This affects both supplies to grocery stores in the area as well as salmon transportation from fish farms. The engine failure appears to be the same as occurred last summer when Baldur was out of commission for a couple of weeks. The municipality of Tálknafjörður has issued a statement criticising the state of affairs of transportation to the Westfjords, road conditions as well as the age and condition of the ferry servicing the route.

Screenshot from Landhelgisgæslan. A shot of the rescue operation in Breiðafjörður seen from a helicopter.