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The Norwegian Government is changing its vaccination strategy so that young people over the age of 18 will be offered a vaccine after all people over the age of 45 have been vaccinated. It is also considering redistributing vaccines to several municipalities with a persistently high rate of infection.
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"Vaccines are one of our most important weapons in the fight against COVID-19. Vaccination is the way back to everyday life and greater freedom. I am glad that the population of Norway is so supportive of the vaccination programme. So far, 1.5 million Norwegians have been vaccinated. We are close to a 90 per cent vaccination rate in the oldest age groups that have been prioritised up to now", says Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
Vaccination of young people brought forward
The Norwegian Government tasked the Norwegian Institute of Public Health with looking into whether young people should be given higher priority and has decided to change the order in which people are vaccinated once everyone over the age of 45 has been offered a vaccine. The age groups of 18–24 and 40–44 will then be offered a vaccine simultaneously. The age group of 25–39 will be offered a vaccine after this. This is consistent with the recommendations from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Also, the Vorland committee recommended prioritising young people. There will be variations in when vaccination of young people can begin in the different municipalities, but some of them will begin already in early June.
"Throughout the pandemic, the Norwegian Government has prioritised children and adolescents first. Even though we have attempted to protect them as much as possible, many young people have nonetheless suffered under the measures. It is very important that young people can have more contact with other people and live freer lives, and vaccinating young people first will also help limit the spread of infection", says Ms Solberg.
Plans for greater geographical redistribution
Today, Moss, Sarpsborg, Fredrikstad, Lørenskog, and Oslo receive 20 per cent more vaccine doses than the rest of the country. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has now recommended distributing more vaccines to 24 municipalities in Eastern Norway that have had a high rate of infection over a long period of time. It recommends that these municipalities receive 80 per cent more doses than planned until all people over the age of 18 have received their first dose of the vaccine.
In the main, the Norwegian Government wishes to follow the advice regarding geographical redistribution of the vaccines. It is the assessment of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health that both 60 and 80 per cent more doses for the 24 municipalities in Eastern Norway would have the same impact. The Norwegian Government has decided to supply 60 per cent more vaccines to municipalities with a persistently high rate of infection. This will reduce the pressure on the other municipalities in July.
"The Norwegian Government's decision relies on the following important conditions: we must make sure that the municipalities that receive fewer doses in June and in the beginning of July have the capacity to recoup this shortfall at the end of July. Together with the County Governors, we will talk to the municipalities to investigate whether vaccination in July, which is the main holiday month, can go ahead as scheduled. If we are going to change the distribution of vaccines, first we need to be sure that this will not delay the date when the entire population has been vaccinated", says Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
The Norwegian Government has also asked the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Directorate of Health to quickly assess whether the list of municipalities that should receive more or fewer doses should be updated in light of developments since the list was drawn up, and ongoing outbreaks.
The 24 municipalities on the list have had a persistently high rate of infection, but a decision needs to be made as to whether other municipalities that have had an extremely high rate of infection must be prioritised or retain their status, so that they do not need to relinquish any doses now.
The recommendation of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health means that, for up to 7 weeks, 319 municipalities will receive about 35 per cent fewer doses than planned under the current population-based distribution formula. The inhabitants of these municipalities constitute about half of the population of Norway. There will be no changes for 13 municipalities.
Such a redistribution requires that the municipalities that must relinquish doses in June and early July have the capacity to vaccinate a considerably larger number of people than planned at the end of July.
The earliest time at which redistribution will be possible is week 23 (7–13 June).
"The advantage of greater redistribution is that the inhabitants of municipalities with a persistently high rate of infection will receive their first dose of the vaccine sooner. This means that we may ease measures that these areas have had for a very long time at an earlier date, and thus reopen the whole country at the same time", says Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie.
Due to the high rate of infection in certain districts and a high level of measures in the municipality, Oslo will be able to start vaccinating people under the age of 45 in prioritised districts when every person over the age of 45 in the same districts has been offered a vaccine.
No occupations prioritised for vaccination
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health does not recommend prioritising vaccination of certain occupations or critical workers above others. The Norwegian Government has followed this recommendation.
According to the Institute, prioritising other groups of critical workers than health personnel would create an enormous amount of extra work for the municipalities without considerably increasing the pace of vaccination.
In accordance with the recommendation from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the following municipalities will receive more doses (list subject to change):
- Fredrikstad (currently receives 20% more doses than according to the basic distribution formula)
- Indre Østfold
- Lørenskog (currently receives 20% more doses than according to the basic distribution formula)
- Moss (currently receives 20% more doses than according to the basic distribution formula)
- Nordre Follo
- Oslo (currently receives 20% more doses than according to the basic distribution formula)
- Sarpsborg (currently receives 20% more doses than according to the basic distribution formula)
In accordance with the recommendation from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the following municipalities will receive the same number of doses as before (list subject to change):
The other 319 municipalities in the country will need to relinquish doses.