COVID-19 vaccine producer Pfizer will decide this week whether to provide vaccines for the entire population of Iceland in order to conduct a study on herd immunity, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist told national broadcaster RÚV. In a series of informal meetings with Pfizer representatives, Icelandic authorities have proposed the nation as an ideal location for the manufacturer to conduct a study on herd immunity. The nation would benefit as well, ensuring itself access to enough of the Pfizer vaccine for the entire population and speeding up the journey toward achieving herd immunity to COVID-19.
Pfizer Considering Proposition
Iceland has several advantages as a research location for herd immunity by vaccination. Its small population (368,000) and good infrastructure would allow the nation to complete vaccination quickly. Icelandic authorities have also been fastidious at gathering data throughout the pandemic, including, for example, by sequencing all viral samples collected.
Icelandic media has been reporting on the informal talks between health authorities and Pfizer representatives for several weeks, and according to the country’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, the proposed study is still on the table. In a conversation with RÚV reporters today, Þórólfur stated he expects to receive a yes or no answer from the vaccine manufacturer this week. “The ball is still in their court,” Þórólfur stated. “They have not formally responded. I know they are checking to see whether they have enough vaccines for it. Because of course there is a great demand for vaccines and they have obligations all over the world.”
Could Speed Up Herd Immunity in Iceland
Pfizer has already reached a similar deal with Israeli authorities to vaccinate all citizens over 16 by the end of March in exchange for statistical data. CEO of Iceland’s deCODE genetics Kári Stefánsson stated that Danish authorities were also attempting to organise a similar study in collaboration with Pfizer. While he initially implied Danish efforts were negatively impacting Iceland’s chances with Pfizer, he later rescinded his comments.
According to current vaccination distribution schedules, Iceland expects to receive doses for 38,000 individuals by the end of March and achieve herd immunity by the second half of this year. Were the Pfizer study to happen, this timeline would be sped up significantly. Vaccination will be optional and free of charge in Iceland.