COVID-19 in Iceland: Vaccination of Children 5-11 Begins Today

COVID-19 vaccination children

Starting today, children aged 5-11 will be invited to Laugardalshöll stadium in Reykjavík for vaccination against COVID-19. The invitations have been sent to their parents or guardians, who make the decision on whether or not their children will receive the vaccination. Around 33,000 children between 5-11 are eligible for vaccination against COVID-19 in Iceland and some within the demographic have already been vaccinated.

Both in the capital area and in other regions of Iceland, the registered parents and guardians of children aged 5-11 will receive an email from school nurses with information on when their children can get vaccinated. Vaccination for the age group will take place every afternoon this week in Laugardalshöll in Reykjavík. As of this time, only the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in those 15 and younger in Iceland.

Open house for boosters

Fully vaccinated adults who have yet to receive their booster shots can do so at Laugardalshöll on weekdays between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM, where Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines are on offer at all times. Adults do not need to have received an invitation for a booster shot, but are recommended to come between 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM this week as children’s vaccination will be taking place in the afternoons. All those who received their second dose of any COVID-19 vaccine five months ago or more are welcome to receive a booster shot. Staff will ask for a kennitala (national ID number) at the location.

Chief Epidemiologist recommends vaccination for children

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason told RÚV that while a small minority in Iceland are against COVID-19 vaccination for children, its benefits are clear. “It’s just clear that the risk from [contracting] COVID is much, much greater for children than the risk from vaccination. It should really be a fairly clear choice for most people, so we will just continue to present those facts and see how it goes.”

Over 90% of Icelanders 12 years of age and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 44% of the total population have receive a booster shot. Over 70% of children aged 12-15 have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 6% have received their first dose. 

Icelandic health authorities have provided information on COVID-19 vaccination for children in English and other languages on this website. 

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.

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 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.

Complete Birth Year Vaccination Schedule Revealed Tomorrow

bólusetning mass vaccination Laugardalshöll

All Icelandic residents who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 will have a rough idea tomorrow of when they will be called in for vaccination. Authorities will use a lottery system, drawing birth years out of a pot, to determine the order in which residents will be called in for their shot. Director of Capital Area Healthcare Centres Óskar Reykdalsson told Fréttablaðið that some 120,000-150,000 doses will be administered in the next 20 days. A similar ordering has already been published for residents outside the capital area.

In Iceland 49.9% of residents have already received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine while 26.7% are fully vaccinated. Icelandic authorities are in the final stages of vaccinating priority groups against COVID-19, including school staff, and began randomised vaccination of the general population this week. Birth years were randomly selected the old-fashioned way: by drawing slips of paper out of a pot. Eligible residents were informed by SMS with short notice, often having ten or 15 minutes to show up at the mass vaccination centre in Laugardalshöll stadium.

Throughout the week, some members of the public called for all the birth years to be selected immediately, as it appears authorities are answering that call. The remaining groups will all be drawn tomorrow, giving residents who have not yet been vaccinated a rough idea of when they will be called in. Authorities have stated that 90% of those 16 and over will receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June.

The draw will take place at 10.00am tomorrow morning at the Capital Area Healthcare Centres’ headquarters, located at Mjódd in Reykjavík.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Randomised Vaccination Likely Begins This Week

Icelandic healthcare system

Icelandic health authorities expect to administer 14,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the Reykjavík capital area this week, aiming to complete vaccination of remaining priority groups and all residents born before 1975, RÚV reports. If there are leftover doses on scheduled vaccination days, authorities will begin to call in the general population using a randomised selection system. Ragnheiður Ósk Erlendsdóttir, director of nursing at capital area healthcare centres, stated that randomised vaccination among the remaining age groups would begin across the country in the coming days.

Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen COVID-19 vaccines will be administered in the capital area on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week respectively. While Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be administered to remaining priority group members such as those with underlying illnesses, the Janssen vaccine will be administered to school staff. A notice from capital area healthcare centres states that authorities will aim to complete vaccination of all those born 1975 or earlier this week if supplies allow. Individuals will be invited for vaccination via SMS. “There are no open vaccination days on the schedule in the near future,” the notice stated.

Vaccination Lottery for Remaining Population

Health authorities are now completing vaccination of priority groups, including the elderly and frontline workers. An Icelandic study presented in early May found that randomised COVID-19 vaccination in the remaining population would be a faster route to herd immunity than vaccination by descending age groups. In an interview last Friday, Ragnheiður stated that the names would literally be pulled out of a hat after being grouped by birth year and sex.  “We’re going to put all these individuals together on the basis of birth year, and then we’re going to pull them out of a hat, or a mug, with either women or men from the given year of birth being selected,” she stated.

Another 20,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine are expected to be administered in Iceland next week. Over 46% of Iceland’s population has received one or both doses of vaccine while just under 25% has been fully vaccinated. Health authorities have stated that they are on track to vaccinate 75% of the population (280,000 people) with at least one dose by the end of June.

Iceland’s Prime Minister Vaccinated Today

bólusetning mass vaccination Laugardalshöll

Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir confirmed with Morgunblaðið that she will receive her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine today. Like all Icelandic residents who have been offered the jab, Katrín received her invitation through the automated SMS messaging system used by Icelandic health authorities. Almost 40% of the population of 368,000 have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine while 15.1% are fully vaccinated.

Notable government officials, as well as some who have spearheaded Iceland’s largely successful efforts to contain the SARS-CoV-2 virus, have been showing up to get the jab in recent weeks. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason and Director of Health Alma Möller were both vaccinated recently – both received a round of applause when they arrived at the mass vaccination centre in Reykjavík’s Laugardalshöll.

Iceland’s President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson showed up for his vaccination last week wearing a t-shirt featuring the famous “Viking clap” popularised by Iceland’s football team at the 2016 UEFA Euro Championships. The President tweeted his admiration for the staff involved, adding “We’re getting there. Hú!” Iceland’s Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir and Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson have both been called in along with their age groups for vaccination.

Icelandic authorities are currently vaccinating the seventh and eighth of ten priority groups. Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has stated that the remaining groups will be called in randomly (and not from oldest to youngest) in line with findings from a deCODE genetics study that the method would achieve herd immunity faster. Icelandic authorities have stated they are on track to vaccinate 75% of the population by the end of July.

Iceland Symphony Orchestra Accompanies COVID-19 Vaccination Today

First mass vaccination in Laugardalshöll arena.

Some 5,000 people who will receive a dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Reykjavík’s mass vaccination centre today will be serenaded by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra while they get their jab, Vísir reports. The ISO contacted vaccination officials and asked if they could play a concert at the centre, and the offer was readily accepted. People of all ages with underlying chronic illnesses are being vaccinated in Reykjavík today.

Around 8% of Iceland’s population has been fully vaccinated while a total of 19% have received at least one shot. The first priority groups to be offered vaccination were frontline workers and nursing home residents, followed by the oldest demographics. Now over 95% of residents over 80 have been vaccinated and most residents over 70 have received at least one dose. This week authorities are vaccinating residents with underlying chronic illnesses in all age groups. Iceland is administering COVID-19 vaccines from three manufacturers: Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Moderna.

“This is a very large group overall, but we have started on the lists of people with the most serious illnesses, this is about 30,000 people in the Reykjavík Capital Area so it will take us a few weeks or the next few weeks to work through this group,” stated Ragnheiður Ósk Erlendsdóttir, Director of Nursing at Capital Area Healthcare Centres. While those vaccinated today will receive the Pfizer vaccine, others with chronic illnesses that are scheduled to get the jab tomorrow will receive the Moderna vaccine. The 60-70 year old demographic (without underlying illnesses) will be offered vaccination starting next week, Ragnheiður says.

Read More: What’s the Status of COVID-19 Vaccination in Iceland?

It is standard procedure for all individuals to remain at the vaccination centre for 15 minutes after receiving their dose. This allows healthcare staff to monitor them and provide medical care in the rare case they exhibit allergic reactions to the drug. “It was great that the Symphony Orchestra contacted us and asked whether they could come and play for people, because everyone has to wait 15 minutes until they can leave,” Ragnheiður explained. A little bit of music should certainly help soothe nerves and pass the time for today’s vaccine recipients.

Icelandic authorities have stated that they are on track to reach their goal of vaccinating 75% of the population by the end of July.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Expect to Vaccinate Half of Population by June

COVID-19 vaccine vaccination Iceland

Icelandic authorities expect to vaccinate just under 190,000 individuals by the end of June this year, according to a government notice released yesterday. This figure amounts to just over 50% of the country’s population of 368,590 and is based on existing contracts with vaccine manufacturers Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca. Two additional vaccine manufacturers are expected to begin distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in Europe in the second quarter.

Icelandic authorities began administering vaccinations against COVID-19 on December 29, 2020. As of the time of writing, 5,944 have been fully vaccinated while 8,143 have received their first dose of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines. Health authorities in Iceland plan to eventually offer vaccines to all residents 16 and older, in total 280,000 people, or just under 76% of the population.

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

Two Additional Vaccines Could Arrive in Second Quarter

While the figure of 190,000 is based on distribution schedules of the three vaccines that are already being administered in Iceland, it is likely that additional vaccines will become available to Iceland in the second quarter. Icelandic authorities have negotiated their existing vaccine contracts through the European Union. The European Medicines Agency is expected to grant two more COVID-19 vaccines a conditional marketing licence in Europe in the coming weeks.

If the two vaccines, produced by Janssen and Curevac, are granted a licence, their distribution could begin in the second quarter, though just how many doses will be available has not been made public. EU authorities are also negotiating purchase of COVID-19 vaccines from Novavax, which would then become available to Iceland through the same EU contracts as other vaccines.

Vaccination Calendar Forthcoming

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason is working on a vaccination calendar, intended to give the public a better idea of when they can expect to be offered vaccination based on priority groups. The calendar will be based on vaccine manufacturers’ existing distribution schedules and will be subject to change. Danish and Norwegian authorities have published such calendars.

First Mass Vaccination Takes Place in Laugardalshöll

First mass vaccination in Laugardalshöll arena.

Iceland’s first mass vaccination took place in the Laugardalshöll arena yesterday, RÚV reports. Vaccinations will continue today and next week with all three vaccines that have received conditional marketing authorisations in Iceland.

377 frontline workers within the police, fire department, and medical transport were vaccinated in Laugardalshöll yesterday in 30 minutes. This was their second injection of the Moderna vaccine. People waited in line until they received the call to get their upper arms out in the injection sites.

After receiving the injections, people must stay for fifteen minutes under the watchful eye of healthcare workers in case of side effects. No one experienced serious side effects after their injection yesterday and according to medical staff on site, everyone was feeling happy and joyful.

The government has signed contracts providing enough vaccine for all Icelanders but the distribution schedule is still unclear after March. Roughly 30.400 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to arrive in February and March. In February, we also expect to receive 4800 doses of the Moderna vaccine and just under 14.200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. While the initial progress of vaccinations is slow, according to the Ministry of Health, we can realistically expect a considerable increase in vaccine shipments in the next quarter, April-June. Vaccine production capacity will likely increase, and more vaccine producers are expected to receive conditional marketing authorisations. Iceland follows the European Union in vaccine negotiations, which is currently in talks with two more vaccine producers, the American company Novavax and the French company Valneva.

The projected economic rebound is intrinsically linked to the speed of vaccination efforts so there’s a lot to be gained. The Central Bank of Iceland’s economic forecast is based on the government’s goal of vaccinating the majority of the nation by mid-year. Today, about 3.6% of the nation have received either one or both vaccine injections. Economist Ásdís Kristjánsdóttir Deputy Director of SA Confederation of Icelandic enterprise stated that authorities need to confirm if their goals are still realistic. Iceland’s economy has been harder hit than many other countries due to the importance of the tourism industry but Ásdís told RÚV that it was important to present the prospective changes of border restrictions, set to take effect May 1, with plenty of notice.

Come May 1, passengers who fulfil certain conditions and are arriving from green and orange countries where infection rates are low can be exempt from the five-day quarantine and second border test. Under the current conditions, only passengers from Greece, Norway, and parts of Denmark and Finland would be eligible.

“The next few months will be hugely important for Icelandic tourism,” Ásdís continued. “On the other hand, it’s important for Icelandic tourism and the economy as a whole that the pandemic subsides abroad.”

Icelandic businesses, especially in tourism have called for predictability in pandemic efforts, something the Chief Epidemiologist has repeatedly stated is hard to give due to the uncertainty of the pandemic’s development. Ásdís stated: “If we can have any predictability, concerning the vaccination process and when the majority of the nation will be vaccinated it would be an improvement for both families and enterprises in Iceland.”