Nearly 100% of Icelandic residents over 80 are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. By the end of today, 90% of staff at Iceland’s largest hospital will have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Iceland is still far from reaching herd immunity against COVID-19, however: just 5.6% of the population of 368,590 have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while an additional 6.7% have received one dose.
Janssen Vaccine Expected in April
Iceland began administering COVID-19 vaccines on December 29, 2020. Since then, 45,422 have received at least one dose of either the Moderna, Pfizer, or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, which Icelandic authorities acquired via collective contracts through the European Commission. The European Medicines Agency recently approved a fourth COVID-19 vaccine produced by Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) and Iceland expects to receive 4,800 doses from the manufacturer in April. That will be enough to vaccinate 4,800 people, as the Janssen vaccine is administered in a single dose. Icelandic health authorities aim to vaccinate over 50% of the population by the end of July. Vaccine delivery is expected to speed up in the coming months as manufacturers ramp up production.
90% of Hospital Staff Have Begun Vaccination
The National University Hospital is not only Iceland’s largest hospital and location of its COVID-19 Ward, it is also the country’s largest workplace, with some 6,000 employees. Around 90% of the hospital’s staff have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine or will receive their first dose today. The hospital paused vaccination of its staff when Icelandic authorities suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month. Iceland made the move alongside several other European countries while the European Medicines Agency investigated instances of blood clots among individuals who had received the vaccine. Further research showed the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks. Icelandic authorities decided last week to resume use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on those 70 and older, as new research had shown its safety and efficacy among the demographic. At a briefing last week, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated that the rare blood clot issues that may be linked to the vaccine were limited to younger people.
Some 340 Hospital Staff in Vaccine Limbo
The decision to limit the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to the older demographic leaves some hospital staff in limbo. RÚV reports that around 340 staff members of the National University Hospital who received one dose of AstraZeneca earlier this month are in the age group that’s now considered too young to receive the vaccine. Hildur Helgadóttir, project manager of the hospital’s epidemic committee, stated the hospital is waiting for a decision from the Chief Epidemiologist on how to proceed with the vaccination of those staff members. She noted, however, that a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine provides considerable protection against contracting the SARS-CoV-2 as well as developing serious illness.