Flu Epidemic Likely Following Decline in COVID Cases

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason believes that the waning COVID-19 pandemic is slowly being replaced by an influenza epidemic. The health authorities encourage individuals with underlying conditions to receive flu shots.

Brynjar Níelsson gets the flu

Last week, Brynjar Níelsson, Assistant to the Minister of Justice, published an essay on the subject of “pushy people” on his Facebook page.

While the former MP’s meditations were mildly interesting, the disclaimer that accompanied his post was even more noteworthy.

“I am extremely sick with the flu and nearly delirious,” Brynjar wrote (ensuring that any controversial statements could be chalked up to the delirious effects of the flu).

… but Brynjar Níelsson isn’t the only one who’s been suffering.

Up to 3,000 visits daily

In an interview with the radio programme Reykjavík síðdegis on Wednesday, Óskar Reykdalsson – Director of Capital Area Health Clinics – observed that the annual flu appeared to be “circulating among the populace in full force.”

Óskar estimated that up to 3,000 people visit capital-area clinics every day, complaining of common-cold symptoms, fever, and a cough.

Among those who have had reason to complain is singer Heiðar Örn Kristjánsson (who competed with Pollapönk in the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest) whose upcoming gig at Gamli Enski in Hafnarfjörður was cancelled for this very reason.

“Heiðar Örn has the flu and has lost his voice,” Gamli Enski announced on its FB page in early March. “In light of this, DJ Drinkalot will be filling in.”

If only Heiðar Örn had taken preventive action …

Flu shots are sensible

The health authorities in Iceland imported 95,000 doses of flu vaccine last year, and an estimated 68,000 individuals have been vaccinated since last fall. There is still plenty of vaccine available.

“It’s not too late to get vaccinated,” Óskar Reykdalsson stated in his interview with Reykjavík síðdegis, “so long as you haven’t been exposed to the flu.”

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason made the same point in an interview with RÚV this morning, where he encouraged everyone to get their flu shots. “Especially those with underlying conditions.”

“We’ve also been encouraging doctors to treat people with underlying conditions as quickly as possible in the event that they become sick. That undoubtedly helps prevent serious illness.”

Social restrictions to blame

The reason why the influenza epidemic is so forceful this year owes to the social restrictions imposed to curb the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years.

According to Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, these restrictions prevented common annual bugs from spreading.

“So we can expect a significant circulation of these bugs now, because the flu hasn’t been spreading for the past two years,” Þórólfur remarked this morning. “This usually means that immune systems are much weaker than they otherwise would be.”

“What’s happening now is what I suggested could happen, that is, that we’re getting an extensive influenza epidemic,” Þórólfur continued. “We don’t know how extensive it will be, or how serious, because it’s just beginning.”

Vaccination Bus to Offer COVID-19 Jabs Across Reykjavík

The capital area healthcare service is planning to operate a mobile vaccination station that will offer COVID-19 inoculation to residents across Reykjavík, Fréttablaðið reports. Around 11% of Iceland’s residents who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination have yet to receive the jab.

“We’re still in the early stages but it might be that the car or bus would stop outside a work area or just in Smáralind or Kringlan shopping centres, and people could get the vaccine there,” Óskar Reykdalsson, director of capital area healthcare centres, explained.

Vaccinate to reduce spread and strain on hospital

Over 89% of Icelandic residents 12 years of age and over are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Icelandic health authorities have begun administering booster shots en masse and hope to offer them to all eligible demographics by the end of March. While vaccination has lowered rates of infection, transmission, and serious illness in Iceland, it has not led to herd immunity. Iceland is currently in the middle of its largest wave of infection since the start of the pandemic.

The mobile vaccination drive aims to reach those that are still unvaccinated against COVID-19. “Number one is just to reach as many people as possible and reduce the spread of the disease and reduce strain on the hospital,” Óskar stated. “We do that by vaccinating as many people as possible.” He added that the Chief Epidemiologist and others have identified which groups have yet to be vaccinated and the drive will aim to make vaccination accessible to those groups.

Drop-in for unvaccinated on Thursdays and Fridays

Those who have yet to receive COVID-19 vaccination, or those who have yet to receive their second dose of vaccine, can also drop in to Laugardalshöll in Reykjavík between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM on Thursdays and Fridays in the coming weeks. The Pfizer mRNA vaccine will be administered on both days, while the AstraZeneca and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines will be offered on Thursdays and the Janssen vaccine on Fridays.

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.

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.




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.”

Woman Arrested for Disturbing the Peace at a Vaccination Site for Pregnant Women

More than 400 pregnant women attended a group vaccination at a site on Suðurlandsbraut in Reykjavík on Thursday when a small, but vigorous protest began, RÚV reports. One woman was arrested for creating a public disturbance.

The vaccinations began at 9:00 AM and continued until the afternoon. The women were organized into small groups according to their birth months, with those born in January and February first to be vaccinated.

The orderly scene was disrupted around 10:00 AM, however, when two women began an extremely vocal protest at the site. One of the women began screaming and became increasingly agitated. She said, among other things, that the vaccine was poison and called pandemic authorities murderers.

“There were two women here who had a different point of view than we do here,” said Margrét Héðinsdóttir, a nurse and vaccination project manager who tried to calm the woman down before police arrived. “She was concerned about the vaccines. But this isn’t the place to protest the decisions of the pandemic authorities. So we had to call the police to help us deal with the issue.”

Police stayed on site until later in the day.

Last Chance for Jab Before Summer Vacation

bólusetning mass vaccination Laugardalshöll

Reykjavík capital area residents that have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 have one more chance to get the jab this Wednesday, or they will have to wait until vaccination staff returns from vacation in mid-August, mbl.is reports. Residents who want to get vaccinated can drop in to the Laugardalshöll mass vaccination centre between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM this Wednesday, July 7, where they will receive a shot of the single-dose Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine.

Already 1,200 have registered to receive the jab on Wednesday but Ragnheiður Ósk Erlendsdóttir, head of nursing at capital area healthcare centres, says there are plenty of doses of Janssen to go around. She encourages all those who are 18 and over to drop in, with the exception of those who are pregnant. Next week vaccination staff will be administering second doses of Moderna and Pfizer on Tuesday, after which staff will go on summer vacation. Vaccination will resume in mid-August.

As of today, 70.84% of Iceland’s population has received one or both doses of COVID-19 vaccine while 60.48% is fully vaccinated. Iceland currently has 28 active cases of COVID-19.

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.

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.