Prime Minister Erna Solberg could smile over news that Norway is getting much more Corona vaccine than initially planned, and it finally arrived on the holiday known as Annen juledag (Second Christmas Day). The first shipments were driven into Ullevål Hospital Saturday morning, with vaccinations set to begin on Monday.
“I’m glad we’re able to get even more vaccine doses during romjulen (the period between Christmas and New Year),” Solberg said during her pre-Christmas press conference. “They’ll be enough for the first dose of the vaccine for all nursing home residents in Norway.”
On Saturday just under 50,000 doses from Pfizer/BioNTech started rolling in, up from the 10,000 initially expected. The first 10,000 of them were being unpacked and will be quickly sent to communities from Sarpsborg and Fredrikstad in the south to Hamar north of Oslo, with nursing home residents and health care personnel in and around the capital set to be vaccinated first.
It was the best Christmas gift health care authorities could receive after what’s widely viewed as Norway’s most challenging year since World War II.
“This is exciting and huge,” Dr Camilla Stoltenberg, director of the country’s public health institute FHI told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Saturday morning. “It’s promising in terms of the handling the pandemic from here on.”
Norway’s press corps was on hand for the vaccine’s arrival but not allowed to take pictures of or film the actual transport, since the vaccines are being stored at secret locations for security reasons. Stoltenberg stressed that the Corona crisis is far from over, and that both health authorities and government officials like Solberg still face lots of challenges in trying to control the infection situation.
“Restrictions will remain in place for quite a while,” Stoltenberg warned, “but this is the beginning of the way out of this.”
Solberg said Saturday that it was “very good” to see that the first vaccine doses have arrived safely in Norway.
“We’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time,” Solberg told NRK. “Now we’ll start the big job of vaccinating the entire population, so that we can slowly and carefully regain everyday life.”
Solberg sent special thanks to everyone “everyone who have been working day and night so that this day would arrive.” Phamacists at Ullevål, Norway’s largest hospital, took delivery and will now redistribute the 9,750 doses under strict logistics needed to keep it at the temperature levels needed for it to remain effective. It will be kept stored at minus 70C before being carefully thawed and can then be stored under refrigeration for five days.