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.




First Doses of Moderna Vaccine Arrive in Iceland

Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Iceland

Iceland received its first 1,200 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shortly before 8.00am this morning, RÚV reports. The vaccines arrived via an Icelandair cargo flight from Belgium. The doses will be used to complete vaccination of frontline workers in the Reykjavík capital area.

The doses have now been transported to drug distributor Distica’s headquarters in Garðabær, where specialists will inspect so-called thermograms in the packaging to ensure the material has not been damaged in transport. “We read a thermogram to check the measurements of thermometers that accompany the material all the way,” explains Distica CEO Júlía Rós Atladóttir. Distica will send their thermogram readings to Moderna, who must give the final go-ahead before vaccination can begin.

Doses Go to Frontline Workers

Capital area health clinics are scheduled to begin administering the vaccine tomorrow to paramedics and police officers who work in frontline positions, as well as employees of official quarantine hotels. The Moderna vaccines must be stored at -15-25°C throughout transport, significantly warmer than the -80°C required to store Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines. Two and a half hours before they are administered, the Moderna vaccines are transferred to a temperature of 2-8°C (the temperature of a standard refrigerator), and they are stored at room temperature for 15 minutes before they are finally administered.

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

Iceland received its first 10,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines on December 28 last year, from manufacturer Pfizer, and vaccination began on December 29. Both Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines must be administered in two doses, though the time between doses varies. The Pfizer vaccines are administered with a 19-23 day gap, while Moderna’s two doses are administered 28 days apart.

Those Over 70 Next in Line

Icelandic authorities expect to receive 38,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of March, which will be used to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers and residents over 70 years of age. Those under 70 can expect to wait at least until April for their shots. Icelandic authorities have already ensured access to enough doses of COVID-19 vaccine to inoculate the entire nation, though when those doses will arrive in Iceland remains unclear. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist has stated that the nation is unlikely to achieve herd immunity through vaccination before the second half of this year.