COVID-19 in Iceland: 10% of Imported Vaccines Sent Abroad Again

Around 10% of all the COVID-19 vaccines imported to Iceland have been exported again, RÚV reports. Some 2,000 doses expired this month while in storage at Distica, the company responsible for COVID-19 vaccine imports to Iceland.

Since the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Iceland on December 28, 2020, Iceland has imported around 1 million doses Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines. The country has since exported around 10% of those, or 100,000 doses, to Thailand.

Distica CEO Júlía Rós Atladóttir says the import company is now receiving around 10,000 doses of vaccine monthly, considerably fewer than at the height of the vaccination drive. Júlía says no doses delivered to Iceland had expired until this month.

“We have not discarded any vaccines and none of them have expired until just recently. This April, the 2,000 doses that we had in storage here expired, a completely insignificant [proportion],” Júlía stated.

Additional Vaccination for Janssen Recipients, At-Risk Groups, and Possibly Children

bólusetning mass vaccination Laugardalshöll

Iceland’s school employees who received the Janssen vaccine are being offered a booster shot of Pfizer at Suðurlandsbraut 34 in Reykjavík starting today. All Reykjavík area residents that received the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine against COVID-19 will receive a booster shot of Pfizer before August 20, Director of Capital Area Health Centres Óskar Reykdalsson stated this morning.

Óskar says there has been additional strain on healthcare workers recently, as vaccination efforts ramp up after a summer pause and COVID-19 testing increases in response to the growing rate of infection. Some staff has been called in from summer vacations to lighten the workload. Óskar says that staff are taking it well. “[They] are motivated to save and stop this pandemic.” Members of at-risk groups as well as the elderly who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 will also be offered a booster shot.

The Icelandic Medicines Agency has approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds, and local health authorities are now reviewing whether to recommend vaccination for the demographic before the school year begins at the end of this month. “They are of school age and parents must consent. Though vaccination may happen in schools parental consent must be given,” Deputy Chief Epidemiologist Kamilla S. Jósefsdóttir stated. “We are going to discuss with health centres how best to organise the administration, information campaign, and other things.”

Three More Weeks of Vaccination Until Staff Vacation

bólusetning mass vaccination Laugardalshöll

Icelandic authorities have published the full schedule for COVID-19 vaccination in the Reykjavík capital area until July 13, 2021, when the vaccination team will go on summer vacation. Those who have not yet received the jab can now register to receive the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine using the online chat service on heilsuvera.is. Vaccination dates for this group will be scheduled based on how many requests are received.

As of the time of writing, 52.6% of Icelandic residents 16 and over are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while an additional 28.8% have received one dose and 2.2% have recovered from COVID-19 infection or have antibodies. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist has stated that the country has already achieved herd immunity, though group outbreaks can still occur among unvaccinated people and it remains important to keep up personal protective measures such as distancing and handwashing.

Around 12,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine will be administered at Laugardalshöll mass vaccination centre today to the final age groups (16 and over) that have yet to receive their first dose. From June 28 to July 13, only second doses will be administered according to the following schedule.

Week 26

  • Monday, June 28 – Moderna
  • Tuesday, June 29 – Pfizer
  • Wednesday, June 30 – AstraZeneca
  • Thursday, July 1 – AstraZeneca

Week 27

  • Tuesday, July 6 – Pfizer
  • Wednesday, July 7 – AstraZeneca (if required; this date is not confirmed)

Week 28

  • Tuesday, July 13 (morning) – Pfizer
  • Tuesday, July 13 (afternoon) – Moderna

Vaccinations will restart again in mid-August after vaccination staff has had their summer vacation. Until now, residents in Iceland have been called in for vaccination and have been unable to book appointments themselves. A notice from capital area healthcare centres says a different procedure will be used when vaccination resumes in mid-August.

COVID-Recovered Offered Vaccination in Iceland

Icelandic healthcare system

Icelandic authorities will now offer vaccination to residents who have recovered from COVID-19 infection, Vísir reports. While the country’s vaccination program was originally only open to those who had not been infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, new research shows vaccines offer more protection than antibodies formed in response to COVID infection. Iceland will have administered one or both doses of vaccine to all residents 16 years of age and over by the end of this week.

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason recommends vaccination to those who have recovered from COVID-19. “Now we’re getting findings from studies that show that it’s a good idea to vaccinate those who have contracted COVID as their immune response is narrower and less significant than after two inoculations. We will invite them for vaccination on that basis.”

AstraZeneca Second Doses Delayed

Over 64% of Iceland’s population has received at least one dose of vaccine against COVID-19 while over 41% are fully vaccinated. All adults in the country that have not yet been vaccinated have received an invitation to the jab this week. Some 20,000 residents of the Reykjavík capital area who received one dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will have to wait until next week at least to receive the other one due to a delay in shipments from the manufacturer.

Around 10,000 doses of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine will be administered at Laugardalshöll mass vaccination centre in Reykjavík tomorrow and the same number of Pfizer doses will be given on Wednesday. After 2.00pm tomorrow, those who have received an invitation for the Janssen vaccine but did not attend their appointment can drop by the centre for a vaccine. The same applies to those who received, but did not attend, an appointment for Pfizer: they can drop in after 3.00pm on Wednesday to get the shot, while supplies last.

Icelandic Authorities Delay Use of Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine

The first 2,400 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) have arrived in Iceland. Authorities have however decided to delay its use until more information is available about its possible side effects. U.S. federal health agencies recommended pausing the use of the vaccine earlier this week after six recipients developed a rare disorder involving blood clots. Janssen is delaying the rollout of the vaccine to Europe.

Authorities Wait for More Information

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason told Vísir the potential side effects reported from the Janssen vaccine are similar to those reported with the AstraZeneca vaccine. “We will wait to use the vaccine until we have better information,” Þórólfur stated. “We will wait with the vaccine and see if we can use it for certain groups that we believe are not at risk from the vaccine as we are doing with AstraZeneca.”

The COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by AstraZeneca and Janssen are based on viral vector technology, unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. While the European Medicines Agency determined a causal link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare instances of blood clots, it nevertheless ruled the benefits of the vaccine to outweigh the risks and recommended its continued use.

Could Delay Vaccination Efforts

Iceland expects to receive a second shipment of the Janssen vaccine later this month, making for a total of 4,800 doses in April. The vaccine is administered in a single dose, meaning the April shipments are enough to fully vaccinate 4,800 people. If health authorities recommend against the use of the vaccine, Þórólfur stated it would delay Iceland’s vaccination efforts, which aim to inoculate 75% of the population by the end of July.

Read More: What’s the status of COVID-19 vaccination in Iceland?

“I hope there won’t be any delay even if we stop using it for a few weeks. However, if the final result is that it is too risky to use the vaccine, it will affect the big picture,” Þórólfur stated. Iceland has ordered 230,000 doses of the Janssen vaccine, one of six vaccines the country will acquire through European collaboration. So far 61,134 have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Iceland, 16.58% of the population.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Fourth Vaccine Arrives on Wednesday

First mass vaccination in Laugardalshöll arena.

Icelandic authorities report that the country is on track to vaccinate 75% of the population by the end of July. A total of 14,541 people received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Iceland last week and vaccination efforts are speeding up in line with distribution. Óskar Reykdalsson, Director of Capital Area Healthcare Centres told RÚV the week ahead will be a busy one, with some 5,000-6,000 expected to receive a dose tomorrow.

7.6% are Fully Vaccinated

Vaccination against COVID-19 in Iceland started on December 29, 2020. Of Iceland’s population of 368,590, a total of 61,134 have received at least one dose of vaccine. Of those, 28,056 are fully vaccinated: 7.6% of the population. By the end of April, around 90,000 individuals are expected to have received at least one dose. Authorities have stated they are on track to vaccinate 280,000 people (75% of the population) by mid-July.

Fourth Vaccine Arrives This Week

Iceland’s first shipment of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday, containing 2,400 doses. A second shipment of the same size is expected on April 26. The Janssen vaccine is administered in a single dose, unlike the three other vaccines currently in use in Iceland. This means that April shipments of the vaccine will be enough to fully vaccinate 4,800 people.

Those 60-70 and Healthcare Workers Vaccinated This Week

Health authorities in Iceland have been vaccinating according to priority groups defined by the Chief Epidemiologist. The first to receive vaccines were nursing home residents and healthcare workers. Over 95% of locals 80 or older are now fully vaccinated in Iceland, while over 90% of those 70 and older have received at least one dose. This week those 60-70 years of age will be invited to receive the jab, as well as healthcare workers outside of healthcare institutions and people with chronic illnesses, groups five, six, and seven of ten defined priority groups.