Sky-high estimates were not high enough: Almost everybody says yes to the Covid vaccine in Norway
More than 90 per cent of Norwegians said yes to the offer of a Covid vaccine. This may give Norway the world's best vaccine coverage. But it also means delays in the vaccination programme.
“Everybody wants to get vaccinated. That’s great news for flock immunity in Norway. But it also means that it will take us longer to reach new groups in our order of priority,” Camilla Stoltenberg says to the Norwegian News Agency, NTB. Stoltenberg is Director of the National Institute of Public Health, NIPH.
She believes Norway may have the world's best vaccine coverage in the groups that are fully vaccinated so far, but stresses that it is hard to find numbers to say this for certain.
“Our original estimates suggested that 90 per cent would accept the vaccine, a number that would be regarded as sky high internationally. But as it turns out we are way above this estimate for the groups that are now fully vaccinated. In one of these groups we have 98 per cent coverage,” Stoltenberg says.
The highest coverage is today found in the ages 75-84. 98,3 per cent of the men in this group have received their first dose. The corresponding figure for women is 97,2 per cent, according to the most recent weekly report from the NIPH.
Stoltenberg believes that Norwegians have a particularly high level of trust in the vaccination programme.
“We see that it often stops at around 60 per cent in some of the countries that have vaccinated a lot of people. They are struggling to get past this and reach higher levels,” she says.
When more people than expected are getting vaccines, it takes longer to get through the whole lot. The Director of the NIPH doesn’t have data to estimate the level of delay that follows from this alone, but due to the high uptake and several other factors the NIPH recently added a 4-5 week delay in their most recently updated vaccine scenario.
In this updated scenario it is estimated that the age group 18-41 years, who are the last in the list of priorities, will have been offered their first dose by the beginning of or the middle of August. This is 2-3 weeks later than the previous scenario.
“We are vaccinating as many as we had planned, but the progress in reaching new groups of priority is slower”, Stoltenberg comments.
Minister of Health Bent Høie says that the high level of support for the vaccination programme makes him happy.
“This puts Norway in a unique situation. A lot of attention was paid to the countries in the world who were quick to get started with vaccination, such as the USA and Israel. But what we see now is that they seem to have reached a plateau. They have lots of vaccines available, but the vaccination is not progressing so quickly anymore,” Høie says to NTB.
This means that Norway may surpass these countries eventually, according to the minister.
“Norwegian citizens have a high level of trust in the assessments of the NIPH and the government, and so they line up to have their vaccines,” the health minister says. He himself received a first dose just this Monday.
“It’s ok to say no”
Norway halted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 11, and in May it became clear that also the Janssen vaccine would be removed from the national programme. This could perhaps make it easier for many Norwegians to say yes please to a Covid vaccine.
“This may have played a role,” Høie confirms.
Assistant director of health at the Norwegian Directorate of Health Espen Rostrup Nakstad believes that detailed information from the health authorities about vaccines, effects and side effects, has contributed to the high uptake.
“Personally I’m not surprised that our coverage will be around 90 per cent. But I have been uncertain about whether the share would be equal in different age groups and for people with backgrounds from different countries. But so far it looks like most people are accepting the offer of having a vaccine, no matter their age or background,” he says.
Translated by: Ida Irene Bergstrøm