News story | Date: 06/07/2021
The Norwegian Government is planning to offer a vaccine against COVID-19 to 16 and 17-year-olds after the over-18s have been fully vaccinated. The final decision will be made in September.
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The Norwegian Institute of Public Health recommends that 16 and 17-year-olds are offered a COVID-19 vaccine, after all people over the age of 18 have been fully vaccinated. This recommendation is based on the current state of knowledge. We will acquire more knowledge and experience from other countries who are vaccinating their young people in the near future.
‘Before vaccinating people under the age of 18 in Norway, we want to have the best possible understanding of the vaccine’s efficacy and adverse events. The Norwegian Government therefore will not make a final decision on vaccines for 16 and 17-year-olds until the Norwegian Institute of Public Health has reviewed the matter again in September,’ says Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie.
Preparing the municipalities for an extension of the vaccination programme
The current COVID-19 vaccination programme comprises people who are 18 (born in 2003) and older. Vaccination is also offered to people between the ages of 12 and 18 if they have a high risk of serious disease. If the Norwegian Institute of Public Health upholds its recommendation following a new assessment in September, it is highly likely that 16 and 17-year-olds will also be included in the vaccination programme.
According to the most recent forecasts from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, vaccination of this age group can begin in October, at the earliest.
‘We want to prepare the municipalities for the possibility that the vaccination programme will include 16 and 17-year-olds this autumn. The municipalities need time to plan vaccination of this group, and need to be made aware that the vaccination programme will continue after the population over the age of 18 has been vaccinated,’ states Mr Høie.
Currently, the only vaccine approved for this age group is the mRNA-vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech.
A more normal everyday life
Young people aged 16–17 have a low risk of falling seriously ill with COVID-19. Preliminary data also indicates that there is little risk of long-term consequences associated with mild COVID-19. However, data from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health indicates that young people in the age group 16–19 are found to have COVID-19 more frequently than younger children. This may be because young people in this age group are more sociable and meet more people than younger adolescents and children. We do not know how the pandemic will evolve during autumn and winter, or how transmission among young people will affect absence from school and infection control measures.
‘Even though 16 and 17-year-olds rarely fall seriously ill with COVID-19, transmission is higher than among younger adolescents and children. Moreover, this group has been seriously affected by the measures during the pandemic. The disadvantages of vaccinating this group must be weighed against the benefits of having a more normal everyday life involving fewer infection control measures,’ says Mr Høie.