News story | Date: 20/09/2021
The Norwegian Government is now making sure that the municipalities offer a free flu vaccine to people who belong to the risk groups. They can also get the vaccine from their GP for a NOK 50 fee. People who have an exemption card can get the vaccine from their GP for free.
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‘The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has warned that there may be a severe flu and RSV season on top of COVID-19. A high flu vaccination rate in the risk groups is therefore considered particularly important in the coming season. I therefore encourage all people in the risk groups to take this year's flu vaccine – also children’, says Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie.
Children in the risk groups are more likely to be admitted to hospital due to the flu.
‘Fewer than 20% of children in the risk groups have taken the vaccine in past years. We need to make sure that information about the vaccine is widely known. This year, children up to the age of 5 who were born prematurely should be offered the vaccine’, states Mr Høie.
Before 2020, people in the risk groups had to pay NOK 175–575 for the flu vaccine, depending on the fee the vaccinator charged for administering the vaccine. In 2020, the Norwegian Government decided that people in the risk groups could be vaccinated against the flu by their GP for NOK 50, or for free if they had an exemption card.
‘This scheme will be expanded this year. People in the risk groups will be offered a free vaccination in their municipality. The scheme which allows patients in the risk groups to be vaccinated by their GP for NOK 50 will continue. It will be free for people with an exemption card’, says Mr Høie.
Out of consideration of emergency preparedness, the municipalities must keep considerable available capacity for COVID-19 vaccination in ‘Normal everyday life with increased emergency preparedness’, which will be useful in connection with flu vaccination.
The vaccine in the flu vaccination programme will become available in October.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has managed to procure 1.84 million doses for the risk groups and health workers for the 2021/2022 season, with about 241 000 doses reserved for health workers. This includes 40 000 doses of a high-dose vaccine for the elderly and those most at risk. This is a considerable increase, compared with 2020, when 1.2 million doses were ordered. This year's order will provide full coverage of the target groups and 75% of health workers.
‘We expect there to be a great focus on vaccination this autumn, and we hope that GPs encourage patients in the risk groups to get the vaccine when they visit them’, says Mr Høie.
Health workers who have contact with patients and pig farmers and others who have close contact with live pigs will also be offered a free vaccine, while their employer will still have to cover the cost of administration of the vaccine.
GPs will receive a fee for administering the vaccine. Employers of personnel who may be exposed to infection at work must ensure that their employees are given information about the flu vaccine; they must also cover the vaccination costs. Vaccination of health personnel will follow the same payment models as before.
Figures from Statistics Norway for 2020/2021 indicate that the vaccination rate last year was about 48% among people over the age of 65. The vaccination rate was higher among older people with illnesses, and it was lower among young people with risk factors.
The following people belong to what we call the risk groups and we recommend that they get the flu vaccine due to increased risk of serious illness (see a complete overview on the Norwegian Institute of Public Health's web site):
- Everyone aged over 65
- Residents in nursing homes and sheltered accommodation
- Children and adults with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver or renal failure, neurological disease, immunodeficiency disorders (and their caregivers), and severe obesity
- Pregnant women in the 2nd and 3rd trimester and pregnant women in the 1st trimester who have a chronic disease or are health workers