While there is as of yet no definite information on when a COVID-19 vaccine will become available in Iceland, the country’s government issued today the latest information regarding the acquisition of vaccines and the planned efforts to administer them. While vaccination could begin in Iceland as early as next month, the vaccines Iceland is in line to buy are still waiting on necessary approval from the European Medicines Agency. Icelandic health authorities aim to vaccinate 75% of the nation, starting with healthcare workers and the elderly.
Iceland to Receive Several Different Vaccines
Icelandic authorities are scheduled to sign a contract next week to purchase enough doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine for 85,000 individuals. The vaccine has yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency, which is expected to make its decision by December 29.
Iceland has already signed a contract with AstraZeneca for its COVID vaccine and should receive enough doses of the vaccine for 115,000 people. AstraZeneca’s vaccine is also waiting on approval from the European Medicines Agency, which is expected to make its decision in January. The Agency is expected to make a decision on the Moderna COVID vaccine by January 12.
Access Through EFTA
Iceland and other EFTA countries are guaranteed the same access to vaccines as member states of the European Union. The European Commission has signed contracts with six vaccine manufacturers, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna. The Commission negotiates the number of doses it receives from each manufacturer and they are divided among countries proportionally. Each individual country also makes contracts with vaccine manufacturers and EFTA member states such as Iceland do so through Sweden. Iceland has already signed such a contract with AstraZeneca and a contract with Pfizer is in its final stages, as stated above. Negotiations with Moderna and Janssen are underway.
The first doses of COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be shipped to Iceland shortly after each vaccine is authorised by the European Medicines Agency. It is expected that vaccines will be available in limited quantities to begin with, meaning Iceland will not receive all of the doses it has agreed to buy at once.
Most agreements stipulate that vaccines will be imported to Iceland by the manufacturer. They are expected to use the same distributors in Iceland as they have used when distributing medicines they have manufactured. Agreements have already been drafted with distributors for the companies that are likely to receive the first authorisation for their COVID-19 vaccines. Syringes and needles will be distributed along with the vaccines themselves. A working group under the auspices of the Chief Epidemiologist is responsible for organising vaccination, which will be carried out in collaboration with healthcare institutions.
Two Doses 2-3 Weeks Apart
COVID vaccines will be administered in two doses, likely 2-3 weeks apart. It takes around a month from the first dose for an individual to develop immunity, though this may vary depending on the vaccine.
The goal of vaccination is to protect people from the COVID-19 disease and to develop herd immunity that prevents the spread of the pandemic. To achieve herd immunity, Icelandic health authorities estimate it will be necessary to vaccinate at least half of the population. They aim to vaccinate 75%, however. Vaccines will be administered free of charge.
Vaccination efforts are expected to begin early in the new year and the press release expresses hope that the goal of herd immunity will be reached within the first three months of 2021. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist has urged the public to keep their optimism regarding COVID vaccines in check, as they have yet to be approved by European health authorities and could face any number of obstacles along the way.