Iceland’s health authorities will meet Pfizer representatives this afternoon to discuss the possibility of a nationwide study which would drastically speed up the country’s COVID-19 vaccination plans. If an agreement is reached, Pfizer would provide Iceland with enough doses of their COVID vaccine to inoculate a majority of the population. In exchange, Iceland would provide the drug manufacturer with valuable data that could shed light on herd immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason and Kári Stefánsson, CEO of Iceland-based biopharmaceutical company deCODE genetics, have been in talks with Pfizer regarding a potential study in Iceland since late last year. A deal between the two parties has yet to be reached, however. In a briefing in Reykjavík yesterday, Þórólfur dismissed rumours that the two parties were close to reaching a deal, stating that Icelandic authorities had yet to see so much as a draft of a contract.
In a radio interview this morning, Þórólfur declined to confirm whether today’s meeting with Pfizer representatives would determine whether the study will in fact go forward. The Chief Epidemiologist encouraged the Icelandic public to temper their expectations. “I think people shouldn’t set their hopes too high and expectations shouldn’t be too high. Let’s just see what happens and if this is something that will actualise.”
Þórólfur emphasised that any contract offered by Pfizer would need to be reviewed by Icelandic authorities. “Because this will be a scientific study, both the National Bioethics Committee and the [Data Protection Authority] need to discuss it.” Other institutions would also need to review and approve the contract for the study to take place.
Iceland began vaccinating against COVID-19 on December 29. Since then, 12,801 have received one or both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the country, just under 3.5% of the population. Authorities have stated they hope to vaccinate the majority of the population within the first half of the year. If the deal with Pfizer were to go through, this schedule would be sped up considerably.