Quarantine Regulations Eased for Vaxxed and Boosted Individuals

Minister of Health Willum Þór Þórsson

Quarantine regulations will be eased for individuals who have both been fully vaccinated and received a booster, as well as for fully vaccinated people who have recovered from a previously confirmed COVID infection. The changes were announced by Minister of Health Willum Þór Þórsson on Friday on the government’s website.

Willum Þór made the decision to loosen regulations on the recommendation of Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, who cited research from the UK and Denmark that indicates that fully vaccinated and boosted individuals are much less likely to become infected with COVID, particularly the delta strain. The research shows that boosted individuals are also less susceptible to omicron infection, although vaccination has been shown to be less effective against omicron than delta.

The new quarantine regulations for boosted and fully vaccinated/previously infected individuals will go into effect immediately.

It is hoped that the easing of quarantine regulations will make a significant impact in boosting the economy and making day-to-day life easier in Iceland, where around 160,000 people—roughly 43% of the population—has received a COVID 19 booster.

“We need to keep society going as much as possible,” said Willum Þór, “whether we’re looking at schools, welfare services, or various economic activities. As it stands now, this response is absolutely necessary.”

Per the announcement on the government’s website, qualifying individuals who are otherwise subject to quarantine are now:

  • permitted to go to work and/or seek out necessary services, such as health services, as well as go to grocery stores and pharmacies, and use public transportation
  • not permitted to attend gatherings or locations where there are 20 or more people present except in the specific instances mentioned above
  • required to wear a mask when in the company of anyone except their closest contacts (i.e. family or people they live with); masks are required even when a distance of two metres is observed
  • not permitted to visit healthcare institutions such as nursing homes without special permission from the institution in question
  • required to avoid contact with persons who have a high risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19

Qualifying individuals are expected to observe quarantine under the above protocols for five days; their quarantine ends on Day 5, provided that they receive a negative result on a PCR test. Individuals who notice symptoms of COVID during their five-day quarantine are urged to get a PCR test without delay. Quarantine remains a minimum of five days.

Drop-In Vaccination Days in Reykjavík Throughout December

bólusetning mass vaccination Laugardalshöll

The first round of Iceland’s COVID-19 booster shot campaign has concluded, with over 135,891 shots administered to fully vaccinated individuals. The Reykjavík capital area healthcare system will now be holding drop-in vaccination days over the next three weeks, until December 30, RÚV reports. Healthcare authorities are also organising a vaccination campaign for children 5-11 years old, pending approval from health authorities.

“We are no longer sending out [booster shot] invitations,” explained Ragnheiður Ósk Erlendsdóttir, director of nursing for capital area health centres. “Now we’re maybe also welcoming students who are coming from abroad and are coming home for Christmas. We want to keep a lifeline open for them. And also if there are any people out there who are still unvaccinated then absolutely hurry on down.”

The booster shot campaign will continue in January, and those who received their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine at least 5 months prior will receive SMS invitations to receive their booster. Health authorities are preparing a vaccination campaign for children 5-11 years of age, pending authorisation for that age group to receive COVID-19 vaccines. “The Chief Epidemiologist has yet to make that decision. To go into that group and vaccinate, but we want to be ahead of the curve as the ones who would carry it out and are already thinking about how we would do it,” Ragnheiður stated. “It would likely be done by going into all schools. And during school hours. And we would get help from all of the healthcare centres to carry out that project, so it will be a big and complex project.”

The schedule for drop-in vaccination in Laugardalshöll, Reykjavík this month is as follows:

This week (10:00 AM – 3:00 PM):

  • Monday, December 13
  • Tuesday, December 14
  • Wednesday, December 15
  • Thursday, December 16

Next week (10:00 AM – 3:00 PM):

  • Monday, December 20
  • Tuesday, December 21
  • Wednesday, December 22

The following week (10:00 AM – 12:00 PM):

  • Monday, December 27
  • Tuesday, December 28
  • Wednesday, December 29
  • Thursday, December 30

Infection Rate of Unvaccinated 13 Times Higher

vaccination Laugardalshöll

Unvaccinated people in Iceland are 13 times more likely to contract COVID-19 than those who are fully vaccinated and have received a booster shot, RÚV reports. Half of all hospitalisations in Iceland’s current wave of infection have been unvaccinated people, who represent less than 24% of the population and less than 10% of those eligible for vaccination.

Over 90% of eligible Icelanders, or those 12 years of age and over, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Over 110,000 people have also received a booster shot, or nearly a third of the total population of 370,000. Vaccination rates vary somewhat between age demographics. Nearly 100% of those 70 and older are fully vaccinated in Iceland (most with booster shots as well). The figure drops to just over 90% for those 50-59 years of age, to around 85% for those 40-49, and to roughly 75% for those 16-39. Nearly 70% of children 12-15 years old in Iceland have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Official data from Iceland shows the difference in 14-day incidence rates by age group and vaccination status. These figures show a consistently higher rate of infection among children and adults that are not fully vaccinated as compared to those who are. The current incidence rate for adults who are not fully vaccinated is 780.4, as compared to 465.8 for fully vaccinated adults. The current incidence rate of those who have received a booster shot is just 59.8. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist has stated that widespread booster shots could help Iceland reach herd immunity.

Iceland’s new Minister of Health Willum Þór Þórsson received his booster shot yesterday. “I just do what the scientists have told us and encouraged us to do. That helps the fight,” he stated on the occasion. “But we have to respect the point of view of those who, for all sorts of reasons, are afraid of it or will not get vaccinated.”

Iceland’s Booster Shot Campaign Well Attended

bólusetning mass vaccination Laugardalshöll

Iceland’s third week of a nationwide booster shot administration campaign has gotten off to a flying start, Vísir reports. Over 7,000 people turned up to Laugardalshöll in Reykjavík yesterday to receive their booster. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason was one of them.

Booster shots were administered in Reykjavík between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM yesterday. Director of Nursing for Capital Area Healthcare Centres Ragnheiður Ósk Erlendsdóttir called it a successful day. “It went wonderfully today. Around 7,150 people came today, which is pretty good, it’s the second time we’re topping the 7,000 person record, we most likely topped it on one of the days in week one, so there has been very good attendance,” Ragnheiður stated.

Þórólfur Guðnason, Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist, turned up to receive his booster yesterday. Þórólfur was fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca, and joked about being a “traitor” when he received his Moderna booster.

Icelandic residents who are fully vaccinated have begun receiving SMS messages inviting them for booster shots. Attendance has been around 70%. The Capital Area Healthcare Service has also been holding an open house on Thursdays and Fridays for those who have yet to receive their first or second shot of COVID-19 vaccine.

Over 90% of Iceland’s eligible population (12 years of age and older) is fully vaccinated. Nearly 100,000 (97,785) have received a booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine in Iceland, while 39,206 have received a second shot following vaccination with the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) single-dose vaccine.

Þórólfur has stated that the booster shot campaign could help Iceland reach herd immunity. Of the 30,000 people who have received a booster shot in Iceland in early November, only 10 had contracted COVID, around 0.03%. Of the 270,000-280,000 that are fully vaccinated, 4,500 people had contracted COVID, around 1.6%.

A New Campaign of Booster Shots Launched Today at Laugardalshöll

Icelandic healthcare system

A new campaign of COVID-19 booster shots began this morning at the Laugardalshöll stadium. Everyone eligible will receive an invitation to accept an additional shot of the vaccine. The unvaccinated are encouraged to attend a so-called “open house” on Thursdays and Fridays.

A sharp rise in infections

In the wake of a sharp increase in infections – and following tighter social restrictions announced Thursday – a new campaign of COVID-19 booster shots began this morning for residents of the capital area at Laugardalshöll (individuals who had received the Janssen vaccine were offered booster shots in August).

The campaign’s first phase will last for approximately four weeks, that is, starting today and lasting ca. until December 8. As noted in Iceland Review last week, the health authorities expect to administer up to 10,000 booster shots per day and hope to offer all those who have been fully vaccinated a booster shot by March.

Those eligible will receive an invitation

The mRNA Pfizer vaccine will be administered at Laugardalshöll between 10 am and 3 pm today, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Everyone eligible to receive booster shots will receive an invitation; however, those who received a second dose of the initial vaccine six months ago may also show up to Laugardalshöll to receive a booster. Those who were jabbed during the first round of vaccinations this spring, individuals sixty years or older, or those suffering from underlying conditions will be given priority. (No vaccines will be adminstered on Suðurlandsbraut 34 on those days that shots are given in Laugardalshöll.)

According to the Capital Area Healthcare Centres’ website, six months must have elapsed between the second dose of the initial vaccine and a COVID-19 booster shot. Likewise, 14 days must have elapsed between influenza shots and booster shots. Those who have completed their initial round of vaccinations and have been infected with COVID-19 are to wait further instruction.

An open house for the unvaccinated on Thursday and Friday

Those who have yet to receive a COVID vaccination, or those who have yet to receive the second dose of the initial vaccine – or those who require a different type of vaccine – may show up at Laugardalshöll between 10 am and 3 pm on Thursdays and Fridays. The Pfizer mRNA vaccine will administered on both days. The AstraZeneca and Moderna will be offered on Thursdays and the Janssen vaccine on Fridays.

COVID-19 Booster Shots Could Help Iceland Reach Herd Immunity

COVID-19 briefing Iceland Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason

Of the 30,000 people who have received a booster shot in Iceland, only 10 have contracted COVID, around 0.03%. Of the 270,000-280,000 that are fully vaccinated, 4,500 people have contracted COVID, around 1.6%. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist stated there is strong evidence that booster shots could create herd immunity in Iceland.

Three doses 90% more effective than two

In an interview on TV program Kastljós last night, Þórólfur explained that experts initially hoped herd immunity would be achieved when the majority of a population was fully vaccinated with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. That hope was based on research with early variants of SARS-CoV-2. The Delta variant of COVID-19, however, proved more infectious than experts anticipated.

While vaccination has significantly lowered rates of infection, transmission, and serious illness in Iceland, it still does not prevent large waves of infection. “Now it has come to light that two doses are not quite good enough,” Þórólfur stated. “For example in Israel, it came to light that the third dose given 5-6 months after dose two works very well, is 90% more effective than dose two in preventing infection, transmission, and serious illness.” He added: “I think there are all indications for us to hope that dose number three will create herd immunity here or at least significantly [reduce the spread of COVID].”

Booster shots administered over next five months

Iceland’s health authorities will begin administering booster shots en masse next week and expect to administer 120,000 before the end of the year. All eligible residents are expected to be offered a booster shot by the end of March 2022. “We hope that people will show up because the booster shot not only protects the individual from infection and serious illness, but also from spreading infection. That way we should be able to get out of COVID, if everything works as it seems like it will.”

Over 76% of Iceland’s total population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Þórólfur stated that around 11% of those eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in Iceland (those 12 years and older) have yet to be vaccinated.

COVID-19 in Iceland: 10,000 Per Day Offered Booster Shot

Icelandic healthcare system

Around 120,000 Icelandic residents will be invited to receive a COVID-19 booster shot before the end of the year, RÚV reports. Health authorities are preparing to begin administering up to 10,000 booster shots per day from next week, and expect to offer all of those who have been fully vaccinated a booster shot by March.

For residents of the Reykjavík capital area, booster shots will be administered in Laugardalshöll. “We are going to speed up considerably and starting on Monday, November 15,” stated Ragnheiður Ósk Erlendsdóttir, director of patient care for the capital area. “We are going to take four weeks and will be doing three days a week. That’s 12 days in total and we expect to invite 10,000 people per day.”

Most of those who will be invited to receive a booster shot before the end of the year are people over 60 and those with underlying illnesses, e.g. those who received their second dose of vaccine before mid-June this year. Other demographics will not receive an invitation before January. Deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to Iceland have continued monthly and Ragnheiður says that reserves have accumulated. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will likely be used for most booster shots.

Booster shots increase immunity, research shows

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has stated that data from abroad show that booster shots increase immunity against COVID-19 and that side effects from the shots are very rare. “Side effects after vaccination are much rarer than after COVID so if you’re going to choose between getting COVID or vaccination, it’s much more likely you will react badly to COVID infection than vaccination,” Þórólfur stated.

Around 11% still not vaccinated among eligible population

Icelandic health authorities held a COVID-19 briefing last week for the first time in nearly three months in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers. Þórólfur encouraged those who have not yet been vaccinated to do so, as local data shows vaccinated lowers rates of infection, hospitalisation, and serious illness. Around 76% of Iceland’s total population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Þórólfur stated that around 11% of those who had been invited for vaccination had yet to be vaccinated.

Moderna Use on Pause in Iceland

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has decided that Iceland will halt the use of the Moderna vaccine in Iceland. RÚV reports that the decision was made after reviewing new data from the Nordic countries, which shows an increased incidence of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle (or myocaridum), as well as pericarditis, an inflammation in the membrane surrounding the heart (or pericardium), among people vaccinated with Moderna.

The decision was announced on Friday on the website of the Directorate of Health.

Sweden currently restricts the use of Moderna to individuals who were born after 1991. Norway and Denmark recommend that Pfizer be used in lieu of Moderna for children aged 12 – 17. Iceland has echoed the latter recommendation, stating in a press release in August that “It is preferable to use the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for this age group in Iceland. The supply of this vaccine is the largest, the experience of using it for the age group is greater than with Moderna and it is easier to transport and use in smaller places all over the country, as there are fewer doses in each bottle than with Moderna.”

Friday’s announcement goes on to say that for the past two months, Moderna has almost exclusively been used for booster shots for those who received the single-shot Janssen [Johnson & Johnson] vaccine or for elderly or immunocompromised individuals who received a prior two-shot vaccination. Of those individuals whose first shot was Moderna, only a very few received a second shot that was also Moderna.

The Directorate of Health notes that Iceland has a sufficient supply of the Pfizer vaccine for booster shots for people with preexisting conditions and initial vaccination for those who have yet to be vaccinated. Pfizer’s vaccine will, therefore, be used while further information is sought on the safety of using Moderna for booster shots.

Around 20,000 Icelanders are fully vaccinated with Moderna.

 

 

 

COVID-19 in Iceland: 7% of Icelanders 16 Years and Older Unvaccinated

Roughly 100 people have been vaccinated per day in the Greater Reykjavík area since July 1, including approximately 500 pregnant women. 7% of Icelanders 16 years and older are yet to be vaccinated.

“The occasional few who dragged their feet”

After the conclusion of the mass-vaccination campaign at the Laugardalshöll sports arena on July 1, roughly 100 people have been vaccinated per day in healthcare centres in the Greater Reykjavík area. Speaking to Mbl.is this morning, Ragnheiður Ósk Erlendsdóttir – Head of Nursing at the Capital Area Healthcare Centre (Heilsugæslan) – stated: “These are primarily Icelandic students arriving from abroad, including those occasional few who had, up to this point, dragged their feet.”

The vaccination of pregnant women began on July 29, with approximately 500 women having received jabs. “I think that’s a pretty good proportion, given that there are between 2,500 and 3,000 births in Icelander a year,” Ragnheiður remarked. “Teachers and school staff have been receiving booster shots since early August, and we hope to finish as soon as possible, considering that a new school year is about to begin.”

Booster shots for Janssen recipients to begin Monday

On Monday, healthcare workers will begin administering booster shots to those 53,290 individuals who received the Janssen vaccine and who have not been infected with COVID-19. These individuals can expect to receive an invitation today and will either be offered the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.

Children between the ages of 12 and 15 will be vaccinated at the Laugardalshöll sports arena on August 24 and 25. Parents who accept jabs on their behalf will be asked to accompany their children and to provide informed consent. Approximately 35,000 vaccine doses will be required to fully vaccinate the entire age group. As noted by the Ministry of Health on August 10, given the supply of Pfizer vaccines and the delivery schedule over the coming weeks, fully vaccinating the entirety of the age group in September should be possible.

According to Covid.is, 86.3% of individuals 16 years and older have now been fully vaccinated, 6.6% have received one dose, and roughly 7% have not been vaccinated.

At least 130 new infections

130 new domestic COVID-19 infections were reported yesterday, 91 of those infected were not self-isolating. Thirty-two COVID-19 patients are currently in the hospital, including eight in emergency care. A total of 1,842 individuals are self-isolating and a further 920 are isolating awaiting results of PCR tests. 1,332 are in quarantine with an active infection.

All Vaccinated Passengers with “Connections to Iceland” to be Screened

Icelandair airplane

Beginning on August 16, all vaccinated passengers with connections to Iceland will be required to undergo screening within 48 hours of arriving in the country.

On the advice of the Chief Epidemiologist

Following a cabinet meeting this morning, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir announced that beginning on August 16 the government will require all vaccinated passengers with “connections to Iceland” to undergo screening for COVID-19 within 48 hours of arriving in the country.

“On the advice of the Chief Epidemiologist, we will begin screening vaccinated passengers who are connected to Iceland upon their arrival,” Katrín stated in an interview with RÚV. “This means that not only those individuals who have an Icelandic ID number will be screened – as per the Chief Epidemiologist’s recommendation – but also those who have connections to Iceland.”

According to the government’s website, the latter group is defined as follows:

  • Icelandic citizens
  • Icelandic residents
  • Individuals with an Icelandic work permit
  • Work-permit applicants and those who have applied for international protection in Iceland

These individuals will be required to undergo either PCR or antigen (rapid) testing within 48 hours of arriving in the country but will not be required to self isolate as they wait for their results. The authorities will be reviewing how best to implement these measures over the next ten days.

“This wave is different”

Over the past few days, the government has also met with representatives from various trade organisations and institutions to discuss the effects of the pandemic on schooling, healthcare, culture, and sports.

Speaking to RÚV this afternoon, PM Katrín Jakobsdótter emphasised the success of the vaccination campaign in protecting against grave illness, while adding that the authorities must thoroughly review the capability of the healthcare system to contend with this newest iteration of the pandemic.

“It’s obvious that this wave of the pandemic differs from previous ones, given that we’ve got numerous new infections but fewer instances of serious illness, which is more common among the unvaccinated,” Katrín stated. According to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health has introduced proposals on how best to ensure the effectiveness of the healthcare system during this new phase of the pandemic.

Booster shots imminent

In addition to the above measures, the government has also reviewed its vaccination policy, hoping to better reach those individuals who turned down jabs. Furthermore, the authorities to expedite the process of administering booster shots to recipients of the Jansen vaccine and have decided to offer individuals in retirement homes and those who suffer from underlying medical conditions booster shots, as well.

No decision, however, has been made whether to tighten domestic restrictions nor what kind of measures will be adopted on August 13, when the current restrictions lapse. Vaccinated passengers (and those with a prior infection) born in 2004 or earlier, will still be required to present a negative PCR or antigen test (not older than 72 hours) prior to boarding a vessel to Iceland.