Swedish officials who’ll be sharing their EU allotment of the Covid-19 vaccine with Norway have told their Norwegian counterparts to be ready to start vaccinating in January. Supplies will be limited, but may be available much sooner than earlier expected.
“The first delivery will perhaps amount to 20,000 doses,” Richard Bergström, Sweden’s vaccine coordinator, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Thursday. “That will demand setting priorities for who will be vaccinated first.”
Norwegian health officials have repeatedly stated that they don’t expect vaccine deliveries until later in the spring. Bergström, however, told NRK that agreements already in hand with various suppliers provide for “access to volumes already in January,” provided EU approvals are in hand.
“It’s most important that everyone is prepared for delivery and distribution,” Bergström said. “Everyone needs to get organized so that vaccinations can begin in January, even though the larger volumes of delivery will begin from March.”
Initial access to the vaccine deliveries are being coordinated through the EU. Since Norway is not a member of the EU, Sweden offered to pass on some of its allotment to Norway in accordance with the agreements between five producers of the vaccine and the EU Commission.
Bergström is thus Norwegian authorities’ main link to the vaccine suppliers, and he wants his colleagues in Norway to be ready to start vaccinating within two months. That’s good news for Norwegians in general, while putting pressure on all involved to have logistics and secure locations for storing the vaccine in place.
Geir Bukholm, in charge of infection control at Norway’s public health institute FHI confirms that he and his staff are planning for vaccinations to begin in January. It would be a “best-case scenario,” but Bukholm claimed Norwegian officials will be ready, with priorities in place regarding who gets vaccinated first.
An ethics commission has already recommended that health care workers and those most susceptible to becoming seriously ill from the Corona virus should be first in line. That would include those with chronic illness and the elderly. FHI is working on a detailed order of priorities, with Bukholm noting that government officials will ultimately decide.
The vaccine arriving first in Sweden will be stored at secret locations and transported further as classified goods in accordance with strict security regulations. FHI confirmed that the vaccine will also be handled in accordance with confidentiality and security laws, to protect its storage and distribution.