Record Number of Coronavirus Deaths Since Start of 2022

vaccination Laugardalshöll

Deaths from COVID-19 have hit a record high, Vísir reports, with 188 people having died from the coronavirus since the beginning of 2022. According to Chief Epidemiologist Guðrún Aspelund, the effect of COVID-19 far outweighs the effects of other infectious diseases such as influenza.

Mainly individuals 70 years and older

Deaths from COVID-19 have surged since the start of 2022, Vísir reports. Thirty-one people died from the coronavirus in 2020 compared to eight in 2021. During the first ten months of 2022, however, that number has risen to 188.

According to Chief Epidemiologist Guðrún Aspelund, this upswing in cases owes primarily to the highly infectious Omicron variant and the fact that no social restrictions are in place. Deaths have mainly occurred among individuals seventy years and older.

“Which is why we’re encouraging older people, everyone sixty years and older, and those who are at risk, to get their booster shots. That’s the best form of protection,” Guðrún remarked, adding that protection from vaccines diminishes over a period of a few months.

“We’ve also got new vaccines now that offer protection against the original variant of coronavirus and Omicron, which offers better protection. We need to repeat these vaccinations to enter into winter with good protection.”

Read More: Long-form Interview with former chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason

Guðrún observed that Iceland’s neighbouring countries have also been seeing a rise in cases in 2022. “Confirmed deaths from COVID-19 are believed to be around six and a half million. But there are many who believe that those figures are at least twice as high – thousands of people are still dying from coronavirus every week.”

According to Guðrún, deaths from coronavirus are significantly higher than deaths from influenza. Coronavirus deaths in Iceland are, however, lower when compared to other countries, with Iceland having the lowest death toll among the Nordic countries.

When asked to speculate why, Guðrún pointed to Iceland’s speedy vaccination campaign, its social restrictions, and the fact that the healthcare system had responded well. “I think we can chalk up this achievement to these factors along with the participation of the citizenry.”

Nine Infected with Monkeypox, Vaccine En Route from Denmark

Nine people had been diagnosed with monkeypox in Iceland as of last week. RÚV reports that Iceland has still not received its own shipment of the monkeypox vaccine and so will be borrowing vaccines from Denmark in the meantime.

In an interview on Wednesday, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason said there was no indication that the monkeypox epidemic is on the decline. Around 14,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease worldwide, 8,000 of whom are in the European Union and 2,000 of whom are in the UK.

“The figures are going up. There’s nothing that indicates that this on the decline. So every country is just preparing to offer vaccination and even antivirals when they get them,” said Þórólfur.

Þórólfur added that Iceland is receiving a loan of 40 vaccine doses from Denmark, as the country  is still awaiting its vaccine allotment from the European Union.

“It’s not clear when they will arrive,” said Þórólfur, “but it shouldn’t be long now.”

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.

Iceland Hopes to Vaccinate 75% of Nation By April

While there is as of yet no definite information on when a COVID-19 vaccine will become available in Iceland, the country’s government issued today the latest information regarding the acquisition of vaccines and the planned efforts to administer them. While vaccination could begin in Iceland as early as next month, the vaccines Iceland is in line to buy are still waiting on necessary approval from the European Medicines Agency. Icelandic health authorities aim to vaccinate 75% of the nation, starting with healthcare workers and the elderly.

Iceland to Receive Several Different Vaccines

Icelandic authorities are scheduled to sign a contract next week to purchase enough doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine for 85,000 individuals. The vaccine has yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency, which is expected to make its decision by December 29.

Iceland has already signed a contract with AstraZeneca for its COVID vaccine and should receive enough doses of the vaccine for 115,000 people. AstraZeneca’s vaccine is also waiting on approval from the European Medicines Agency, which is expected to make its decision in January. The Agency is expected to make a decision on the Moderna COVID vaccine by January 12.

Access Through EFTA

Iceland and other EFTA countries are guaranteed the same access to vaccines as member states of the European Union. The European Commission has signed contracts with six vaccine manufacturers, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna. The Commission negotiates the number of doses it receives from each manufacturer and they are divided among countries proportionally. Each individual country also makes contracts with vaccine manufacturers and EFTA member states such as Iceland do so through Sweden. Iceland has already signed such a contract with AstraZeneca and a contract with Pfizer is in its final stages, as stated above. Negotiations with Moderna and Janssen are underway.

Vaccination Timeline

The first doses of COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be shipped to Iceland shortly after each vaccine is authorised by the European Medicines Agency. It is expected that vaccines will be available in limited quantities to begin with, meaning Iceland will not receive all of the doses it has agreed to buy at once.

Most agreements stipulate that vaccines will be imported to Iceland by the manufacturer. They are expected to use the same distributors in Iceland as they have used when distributing medicines they have manufactured. Agreements have already been drafted with distributors for the companies that are likely to receive the first authorisation for their COVID-19 vaccines. Syringes and needles will be distributed along with the vaccines themselves. A working group under the auspices of the Chief Epidemiologist is responsible for organising vaccination, which will be carried out in collaboration with healthcare institutions.

Two Doses 2-3 Weeks Apart

COVID vaccines will be administered in two doses, likely 2-3 weeks apart. It takes around a month from the first dose for an individual to develop immunity, though this may vary depending on the vaccine.

The goal of vaccination is to protect people from the COVID-19 disease and to develop herd immunity that prevents the spread of the pandemic. To achieve herd immunity, Icelandic health authorities estimate it will be necessary to vaccinate at least half of the population. They aim to vaccinate 75%, however. Vaccines will be administered free of charge.

Vaccination efforts are expected to begin early in the new year and the press release expresses hope that the goal of herd immunity will be reached within the first three months of 2021. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist has urged the public to keep their optimism regarding COVID vaccines in check, as they have yet to be approved by European health authorities and could face any number of obstacles along the way.