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.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Moderna Vaccine Used for 60+

COVID-19 vaccine vaccination Iceland

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist announced yesterday that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will only be used for booster shots among those 60 and older. Health authorities in Iceland temporarily suspended use of the Moderna vaccine on October 8, 2021 after data from Nordic countries showed an increased likelihood of cardiac inflammation as a side effect of the drug. The Chief Epidemiologist stated that the decision would be reviewed if new data emerges suggesting the vaccine is safe for younger demographics.

“Unpublished data from the Nordic countries indicate that the risk of cardiac inflammation after vaccination against COVID-19 is much higher among 18 to 39-year-olds if the Moderna vaccine is used than after vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine.” the announcement reads. “Cardiac inflammation after vaccination is much less common among older demographics. It should be noted that the use of the Moderna vaccine in 12 to 17-year-olds is much lower than the use of the Pfizer vaccine in Europe and no comparison of the safety of the vaccines in that age group has been made in this study.”

Over 75% of Iceland’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including over 60% of those 12-15 years old (the youngest eligible demographic). Icelandic health authorities have begun administering booster shots to vulnerable populations and healthcare workers. Those under 60 who have received a single shot of Moderna will be invited to complete their vaccination with a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Men 18-39 are not recommended to accept the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Just over 20,000 residents of Iceland have been fully vaccinated with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Data shows that the vast majority of vaccination side effects emerge shortly after vaccination takes place.

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.




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-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 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: 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.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Vaccination Update

Nearly 100% of Icelandic residents over 80 are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. By the end of today, 90% of staff at Iceland’s largest hospital will have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Iceland is still far from reaching herd immunity against COVID-19, however: just 5.6% of the population of 368,590 have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while an additional 6.7% have received one dose.

Janssen Vaccine Expected in April

Iceland began administering COVID-19 vaccines on December 29, 2020. Since then, 45,422 have received at least one dose of either the Moderna, Pfizer, or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, which Icelandic authorities acquired via collective contracts through the European Commission. The European Medicines Agency recently approved a fourth COVID-19 vaccine produced by Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) and Iceland expects to receive 4,800 doses from the manufacturer in April. That will be enough to vaccinate 4,800 people, as the Janssen vaccine is administered in a single dose. Icelandic health authorities aim to vaccinate over 50% of the population by the end of July. Vaccine delivery is expected to speed up in the coming months as manufacturers ramp up production.

90% of Hospital Staff Have Begun Vaccination

The National University Hospital is not only Iceland’s largest hospital and location of its COVID-19 Ward, it is also the country’s largest workplace, with some 6,000 employees. Around 90% of the hospital’s staff have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine or will receive their first dose today. The hospital paused vaccination of its staff when Icelandic authorities suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month. Iceland made the move alongside several other European countries while the European Medicines Agency investigated instances of blood clots among individuals who had received the vaccine. Further research showed the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks. Icelandic authorities decided last week to resume use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on those 70 and older, as new research had shown its safety and efficacy among the demographic. At a briefing last week, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated that the rare blood clot issues that may be linked to the vaccine were limited to younger people.

Some 340 Hospital Staff in Vaccine Limbo

The decision to limit the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to the older demographic leaves some hospital staff in limbo. RÚV reports that around 340 staff members of the National University Hospital who received one dose of AstraZeneca earlier this month are in the age group that’s now considered too young to receive the vaccine. Hildur Helgadóttir, project manager of the hospital’s epidemic committee, stated the hospital is waiting for a decision from the Chief Epidemiologist on how to proceed with the vaccination of those staff members. She noted, however, that a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine provides considerable protection against contracting the SARS-CoV-2 as well as developing serious illness.

Icelandic Government Releases Vaccination Calendar

Iceland’s Ministry of Health and Chief Epidemiologist have released a calendar for COVID-19 vaccination. The calendar is intended to give the public an indication of when vaccination for each priority group is likely to start. The calendar is tentative and will be regularly updated as vaccines are approved and distribution schedules are updated. Icelandic health authorities expect to vaccinate all locals over the age of 16 before the end of June 2021.

Vaccination against COVID-19 began in Iceland on December 29, 2020 and just over 10,000 have been fully vaccinated (2.9% of the population). Three vaccines have been licensed and are being administered in Iceland: those manufactured by Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna. There is a confirmed distribution schedule for these vaccines until the end of March. Though exact distribution schedules from the three manufacturers are not available for the second quarter, Icelandic authorities say they expect enough doses from them to inoculate 190,000 individuals by the end of June.

Three Additional Vaccines Pending

Iceland has entered into agreements for the purchase of CureVac and Janssen COVID-19 vaccines on the basis of European co-operation. The European Union is concluding an agreement for purchase of the Novavax vaccine as well, to which Iceland is a party. These three additional vaccines are being evaluated by the European Medicines Agency and are expected to receive conditional marketing licences soon.

The CureVac, Janssen, and Novavax contracts include delivery schedules for the second quarter of this year (April to June) and the vaccination calendar takes this information into account. The data is however subject to the three vaccines receiving conditional marketing authorisations from the European Medicines Agency and subsequently the Icelandic Medicines Agency.

The Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the epidemiologist, will update the vaccination calendar as the vaccination progresses and as new information is received about vaccines and their delivery.

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.