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 Vaccination Moved to Primary Healthcare Centres

The mass vaccination centre in Reykjavík’s Laugardalshöll stadium is officially no longer in operation. As of today, COVID-19 vaccination will be offered at primary healthcare centres. First and second doses for those five years of age and older as well as booster shots for those 16 years of age and up will be offered by appointment. As previously, COVID-19 vaccination in Iceland will be entirely free of charge.

Each primary healthcare centre will administer vaccinations on specific days, according to a notice from Capital Area Primary Healthcare Centres. At the moment, only Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines will be offered. In order to be eligible for a booster shot, more than four months must have passed from an individual’s second dose of vaccination. For those who have contracted COVID-19, Icelandic health authorities recommend waiting at least three months before receiving a booster shot, and up to six months in some cases.

Those who wish to receive COVID-19 vaccination at a primary healthcare centre must book an appointment through heilsuvera.is (using electronic ID). Parents and guardians can book appointments for children 15 years of age and younger. Those who do not have an electronic ID can call their local healthcare clinic to book an appointment.

Over 78% of Iceland’s total population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and over 54% have received a booster shot.

More information about COVID-19 vaccination at primary healthcare centres is available at heilsuvera.is or by phone at +354 513 1700.

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. 

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 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.

Children to Receive First Jabs Today and Tomorrow

Vaccine

The vaccination of children between the ages of 12 and 15 began at the Laugardalshöll stadium in Reykjavík this morning. The authorities expect to immunize approximately 10,000 children over the next two days, Vísir reports.

“Everyone in agreement”

Children between the ages of 12 and 15 and who live in the Greater Reykjavík Area will receive jabs against COVID-19 at the Laugardalshöll stadium today and tomorrow. Rather than sending out invitations, the Capital Area Healthcare Centres (HH) have asked legal guardians to accompany their children to Laugardalshöll according to a designated schedule. On the HH website, parents are encouraged to discuss vaccinations with their children so that “everyone is in agreement” before arriving at the stadium. The children will receive the Pfizer vaccine.

Children from the abovementioned age group and who have already been infected with COVID-19 can receive one dose of the vaccine, that is if more than three months have passed since the infection. 7th graders, who turn 12 this fall, will be offered vaccines later this autumn.

Common side effects

As noted on the HH website, the most common side effects of the vaccine are pain on the injection site, tiredness, fever, headache, and muscle pain.

“As with other vaccines, the most common side effects are discomfort at the injection site and weakness/fatigue, fever and aches (headache or muscle aches and joint pain) for the first 24 hours after vaccination, sometimes for several days. Paracetamol or ibuprofen may be used in doses according to package leaflet for these side effects. There are also rare side effects with swelling in the pericardium (bag around the heart) or in the heart muscle itself, 2 to 3 weeks after vaccination, usually after the second dose and is more common in boys than girls. Although these side effects can be uncomfortable and even frightening, the condition usually disappears with rest and anti-inflammatory painkillers. If a child develops chest pain, talks about a strange heartbeat or seems short of breath when resting after the vaccination, a doctor should be consulted,” the website of the Capital Area Healthcare Centre reads.

Irregularities in the menstrual cycle

The HH website also addresses the possible connection between COVID-19 vaccinations and period changes:

“It is being investigated whether changes in the menstrual cycle, both spotting, small and heavy bleeding, are related to vaccination with this vaccine. Some girls between the ages of 12 and 15 have already started menstruation, while others have not. Not all girls at this age may be aware of any changes, as menstruation is usually irregular in the first year after it starts. Many also find it uncomfortable to talk about and won’t necessarily tell if something is different than (SIC) before. It is therefore important that they receive information that it is appropriate to discuss this and have the opportunity to do so, if not at home than (SIC) possibly with a school nurse or other healthcare professionals.”

Increased Demand for Vaccinations but No Plans to Recall Vaccination Staff from Summer Holidays

Demand for vaccinations at Heilsugæslan health clinics in the capital area has increased considerably in recent days, RÚV reports, unsurprisingly prompted by the recent spate of positive COVID-19 infections.

Two hundred people received vaccination shots at the health clinic on Suðurlandsbraut on Wednesday. “We didn’t anticipate this with all the COVID testing we’re doing, too, so we’ll have to limit ourselves to 100 a day,” said Sigríður Dóra Magnúsdóttir, Medical Director of capital-area Heilsugæslan clinics.

Around 50,000 Icelanders have received the one-shot Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine and pandemic authorities will probably call for second shots of one of the other available vaccines, most likely Pfizer, to be administered to these individuals in order to bolster their resistance to COVID-19. Sigríður Dóra says that people who received the Janssen shot will probably not be given a booster until mid-August, but health clinics will wait for further guidance from chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason before making any final decisions.

Vaccination staff went on summer vacation on July 7 and are not scheduled to return until mid-August. Sigríður Dóra says that despite the current increase in infections, she doesn’t believe that there is cause to call these employees back from their holidays. It will take around three days to vaccinate the 30,000 capital-area residents, young people, teachers, fishermen, and ship and flight crew personnel who received the Janssen shot.

Celebratory Atmosphere During Final “Big” Vaccine Day

Yesterday marked the final big vaccination day at the Laugardalshöll arena. Approximately 10,000 individuals were vaccinated, and healthcare workers were regaled with music.

Over 75% now fully vaccinated

In the final big push of the vaccination campaign, roughly 10,000 individuals showed up to the Laugardalshöll arena yesterday to receive jabs. According to Covid.is, 75.8% of Icelanders are now fully vaccinated, with a further 12.9% having received the first dose of their vaccine.

The atmosphere in the arena yesterday was festive. “It was quite the final spurt, after this big week. Having run out of AstraZeneca doses, we were forced to create a cocktail with AstraZeneca and Pfizer,” Ragnheiður Ósk Erlendsdóttir, Head of Nursing at the Capital Area Healthcare Centre, stated in an interview with RÚV. Although the above-mentioned cocktail offers significant protection, a few opted to wait for the next shipment of AstraZeneca.

The unvaccinated can still register

As reported by RÚV, individuals waiting on their second dose of Pfizer will be called in over the next two Tuesdays. The same goes for those who have registered to receive the Janssen vaccine, and the authorities are also considering adding a small AstraZeneca day, as well. Those who have yet to be vaccinated can register through their respective healthcare providers or through the chat function on Heilsuvera.is.

Healthcare workers handling vaccinations will go on summer vacation from July 13 until August 17, and it has yet to be decided how vaccines will be administered after they return. However, a watershed moment will be reached soon when the makeshift vaccine centre at Laugardalshöll will be closed: “Yes, I expect so. Being here has been rather cosy. Really quite delightful, and the stadium managers deserve credit: they’ve been really helpful, and things have gone quite smoothly,” Ragnheiður Ósk stated.

Party into the evening

Despite the majority of Icelanders having been vaccinated, two individuals were diagnosed with COVID-19 this week. The two infections are related, and one of the individuals had already been vaccinated. Symptomatic individuals are encouraged to get tested, even if they are fully vaccinated, for they can still become infected and infect others. It is, however, highly unlikely that vaccinated individuals will become seriously ill.

Even though the final doses were administered at around 5 pm yesterday, healthcare workers who have administered vaccines at Laugardalshöll for the past weeks and months lingered in the arena. They convened to celebrate the success of their campaign and to watch a secret performer – who turned out to be Icelandic pop star Páll Óskar – step on stage (see accompanying photo above).

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.