Information and statistics on vaccinations against COVID-19

Information

The vaccines against COVID-19 that will be used in Iceland are safe and provide the best possible protection against the disease.

The object of the vaccination is to protect individuals from contracting the disease and to achieve herd immunity, which will prevent the spread of the pandemic. In Iceland, the plan is to vaccinate approximately 60-80% of the nation who were born in 2005 or earlier. Vaccinations are and will be free of charge, and no one will be forced to accept the vaccination.

The speed of vaccinations will depend on the volume of the vaccine sent each time to Iceland.

Based on the available information on the delivery of vaccines and estimates applicable thereto, the Ministry of Health has prepared a vaccination schedule for COVID-19.

The effectiveness of all vaccines is based on the fact that they activate the immune system so that it is later able to protect the body against a disease by recognising the pathogens that cause it. The website of the Icelandic Medicines Agency contains more material about the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Minister of Health has confirmed a Regulation on the prioritisation of vaccinations against COVID-19. The object of the Regulation is to determine prioritisations on the basis of objective views and with as much predictability as possible. Account was taken, in the creation of the Regulation, of the guidelines of the World Health Organisation regarding prioritisation regarding vaccinations against COVID-19 and views that have been expressed as the result of comparable work in neighbouring countries. The distribution of the vaccine and organisation of vaccinations is managed by the Chief Epidemiologist, while its execution is managed by local healthcare centres and healthcare organisations.

Pregnant women are not considered a special priority group when vaccinating against COVID-19 but there is no opposition to the vaccination of pregnant women who so request. This is particularly applicable to women who were at risk before the pregnancy, or are engaged in work where priority vaccination is recommended, such as health services.

You can find the latest information and news on medications against COVID-19 and the development of vaccines on the website of the Icelandic Medicines Agency.

This page will be updated as we receive new information on the effectiveness and delivery of vaccines and the execution of vaccinations.

There are ten priority groups

According to Regulation No. 1198/2020, the Chief Epidemiologist has, in consultation with the Minister of Health, decided which groups are to have priority during the COVID-19 vaccinations when the first doses are delivered.

Group 1
Healthcare professionals and other staff working in emergency wards and intensive care units of Landspítali University Hospital and the intensive care unit in the hospital in Akureyri.
Group 2
Healthcare workers working in COVID-19 out-patient wards and wards for patients who have been infected with COVID-19.
Group 3
Persons living in nursing and retirement homes and old-age wards in hospitals.
Group 4
Ambulance staff, paramedics, the employees of the Icelandic Coast Guard, fire brigade employees, prison guards, call-out police officers.
Group 5
Healthcare professionals involved in the primary care of patients and who must necessarily be vaccinated.
Group 6
Persons aged 60 and older.
Groups 7
Persons with underlying long-term illnesses who are at particular risk.
Groups 8
Employees of nursery, primary and secondary schools and select groups of social and welfare service workers.
Groups 9
Persons who are in sensitive circumstances due to their social and economic situation.
Groups 10
All others who request vaccination.

How will the vaccinations be organised?

Call-ins and registration

Persons who have priority will receive a message to attend vaccination at a healthcare centre (either by text message or through Heilsuvera) stating the location and time they are to come for their vaccination. It will not be possible to book an appointment for a vaccination.  

The Directorate of Health has developed a computer system that will support the vaccinations. The system will manage all priority groups, appointments for vaccinations and information on vaccinations for healthcare workers, as well as monitor that persons have been fully vaccinated. Thus, the system will manage the progression of vaccinations and record information directly into the vaccination database of the Chief Epidemiologist.

Employees and patients in hospitals will vaccinated in the hospitals. Residents and staff in nursing homes and group homes will be vaccinated in the homes. Information on the location of vaccinations for other groups will be advertised when it has become clear when they are to be vaccinated.

  • Individuals will be called in for vaccination according to the priority list.
  • It will not be possible to book an appointment for a vaccination.
  • A computer system will manage all priority groups, appointments for vaccinations, information on vaccinations and registrations and will monitor that persons have been fully vaccinated.
  • Vaccines will be distributed to delivery locations in Iceland, and healthcare centres will be responsible for the execution of vaccinations in their areas.
  • Persons who have priority will receive a message through Heilsuvera stating the location and time they are to come for their vaccination.
  • Vaccination locations for other groups will be announced when it becomes clear when they will be vaccinated.
  • As a rule, everyone needs to be vaccinated twice with the same vaccine, with a three-week interval, according to the guidelines of the manufacturer.
  • Undesirable side effects. The general public and healthcare workers may send in notifications of undesirable side effects to the website of the Icelandic Medicines Agency.

Side-effects after COVID-19 vaccination:

All immunizations can cause discomfort that are called adverse effects or more commonly side-effects. Most side-effects are a result of the activation of the immune system, which is the purpose of the immunization. These symptoms are usually the same for all vaccines:

  • Fever >38°, chills
  • Local symptoms at injection site
  • Tiredness, feeling unwell, headache, stomach/intestinal symptoms

These symptoms usually arise within 24 hours of the vaccination and rarely last longer than 24-48 hours except for local symptoms and lymph node swellings (see below). Symptoms often arise more quickly after a repeat dose of the same vaccine. Local symptoms can be simple ache but sometimes include itching, redness or swelling. These symptoms often last longer than 24 hours, even up to a week. It is not necessary to report these symptoms to the primary health care or the institution that performed the immunization, or to the Icelandic Medicines Authority (IMA), unless they are unusually severe. Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used in the package recommended doses for those individuals who can tolerate those medicines, if necessary to reduce discomfort after vaccination.

Lymph nodes nearest to the injection site, usually under the injected arm, are a well known but rare side effect related to the activation of the immune system. If they are more widespread it is advisable to contact a health care provider, for example in primary care, who will assess whether an examination or treatment is necessary and report to the IMA.

Possible side-effects of COVID-19 vaccines apart from immune activation:

These side-effects should be reported to the IMA in all cases because of the additional monitoring in effect for these new products. Be aware that connection to the vaccination has not been confirmed for all such symptoms but if occurrences are well documented it may be possible to confirm or refute a causal relationship with the vaccination. When causal relationships are confirmed it may be possible to define those who are at risk of such side-effects and plan for appropriate response or make additional recommendations regarding vaccination of such individuals.

Comirnaty/Pfizer BioNTech vaccine: (see product information)

  • Anaphylaxis or other acute allergic symptoms
  • Facial nerve palsy (Bell palsy)
  • Other sudden, new onset symptoms that may be related to the vaccine

Moderna vaccine: (see product information)

  • Anaphylaxis or other acute allergic symptoms
  • Facial nerve palsy (Bell palsy)
  • Other sudden, new onset symptoms that may be related to the vaccine

Notification to the Icelandic Medicines Authority:

Anyone can notify the IMA of a suspected adverse effect of a medicine, including vaccines. Family members or staff in long-term care facilities can send notifications on behalf of vaccinated inhabitants of such facilities. It is most important to notify the IMA if suspected side-effects are new (not included in the product information above), previously described but of uncertain incidence (according to the product information) or serious (requiring treatment beyond the simple fever reducing pain medicines discussed above). Notifications can be made to health care providers who then report to the IMA, by email or directly on the IMA website.


Life after COVID-19 vaccination

Symptoms after vaccination:

See more about side-effects here. It is very important to notify the primary health care or the institution where you were vaccinated if serious or uncommon side-effects arise after vaccination. Even if you are not sure that the symptoms are related to the vaccination you should report them as these are new medicines under special scrutiny. Be aware that when the same vaccine is given with short intervals it is very likely that symptoms of immune system activation (fever, feeling unwell or tired, local discomfort at the injection site) in the first 24 hours after the later doses. It is not necessary to report these common symptoms to the Icelandic Medicines Authority unless they are very extreme (for example the entire arm swells up) or last longer than usual (as assessed by a health care provider).

Community restrictions for infection control after vaccination:

People who have completed COVID-19 vaccination are not exempt from the general restrictions in effect due to the COVID-19 epidemic (limitation of gatherings, mask use, workplace regulations).

The vaccination is known to decrease risk of infection, but does not eliminate infection and we do not know yet if those who are infected after vaccination are less likely to transmit the disease to others or not.

People who have completed COVID-19 vaccination and carry an official certificate issued in an EU/EEA country are not required to undergo screening and quarantine after travelling to Iceland according to regulation no. 18/2021. Once the World Health Organization (WHO) issues international vaccine certificates for COVID-19 vaccination they will also be accepted as exemptions from screening and quarantine at the Icelandic border.

Vaccinated individuals are not exempt from quarantine after exposure to a person with COVID-19.


FAQ regarding COVID-19 vaccination

Frequently asked questions and answers about vaccination against COVID-19 - website Director of Health

Frequently asked questions from healthcare professionals (in icelandic) website Director of Health

Frequently asked questions and answers about vaccines and medicines (in icelandic) for COVID-19 on the Icelandic Medicines Agency's website