Vaccination against COVID-19 - FAQs

The Chief Epidemiologist is responsible for the organisation and co-ordination of vaccination against COVID-19.

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. Approximately 60–70% of the population will need to be vaccinated to achieve heard immunity. The plan is to vaccinate approximately 75% of the nation who were born in 2006 or earlier.

Vaccination against COVID-19 in Iceland will be co-ordinated throughout the country, and persons will be called in for inoculation according to prioritisation schedules established by Regulation No. 1198/2020 (https://www.reglugerd.is/reglugerdir/eftir-raduneytum/hrn/nr/22219), on the amendment of the regulation on vaccinations in Iceland.

The Chief Epidemiologist may depart from the above priority list if necessary, such as due to the progression of the pandemic’s status from time to time or type of vaccine, although account must be taken of the priority list stated in the Regulation.

Those who have been confirmed as having had COVID-19 by PCR tests or antibody tests do not need vaccination.

Further information

Covid.is – Public information on the COVID-19 vaccine  

The Icelandic Medicines Agency – Information on COVID-19 vaccines 
https://www.lyfjastofnun.is/lyf/covid-19/boluefni-gegn-covid-19/

 

COVID-19 Vaccination – FAQs

 

Why are we vaccinating against COVID-19?
There are several reasons, including:

  • To reduce the number of deaths and serious illness due to COVID-19. This is why it is important to vaccinate those most at risk of serious COVID-19 infection as soon as possible, at least while the availability of the vaccine is limited.
  • To reduce the impact of the pandemic on socially essential operations, especially where the effects of COVID-19 are greatest, e.g. in the health system. This is why it is important to vaccinate those who perform such operations as soon as possible, at least while the supply of vaccine is limited.
  • To minimise the spread of infection in society by creating a general immunity in communities. Therefore, it is the goal of the authorities in Iceland that everyone who requests it has access to a vaccine once the supply is satisfactory.

 

Are you likely to be infected after being fully vaccinated?

  • No COVID-19 vaccine has provided complete protection against infection in the current circumstances, but they have greatly reduced the risk of infection and prevented serious illness and death.
  • Individual infection prevention control measures must continue to prevail after vaccination, and all societal rules (applicable public gathering restrictions, masks, etc.) are identical for the vaccinated and unvaccinated. When the impact of vaccination begins to be felt within society, it will affect what societal rules will be in effect.

 

Can a vaccine developed in such a short time be trusted?
The COVID-19 vaccines have been developed faster than any previous vaccine.

  • Significant amounts of money were allocated to their development due to the huge impact the pandemic was having globally. Usually, those who develop vaccines in the early stages need to repeatedly apply for funding for the next step, which delays the process; here, this was not the case.
  • Health authorities that decide whether drugs, e.g. vaccines, go on the market usually review all data on vaccine research at the end of the research process and sometimes ask for more research before a marketing authorisation is granted. For the COVID-19 vaccines, research has been monitored while it was ongoing in order to identify where more work was needed immediately and to shorten the application time when research was completed. The vaccines have thus been given priority treatment by health authorities to speed up marketing, but the same basic requirements were made in regards to the research as apply to all vaccines.
  • Due to research on the SARS virus at the beginning of this century, it had already been established that a certain protein (S-protein) was likely to be the most important for our immune system to recognise the coronavirus. As a result, it was not necessary to start research on which part of the coronavirus should be attacked with a vaccine, only to confirm that the S-protein in SARS-CoV-2 attracts the attention of the immune system (phase I studies).
  • The COVID-19 vaccines that are already on the market in Europe are based on the latest technology, which speeds up the development process far beyond the standard vaccines. Conventional vaccines have mostly been based on the production of large amounts of bacteria which are then used entirely or partly in vaccines. Such a production process often involves many steps to get rid of unwanted components of the bacterium and delays development, and often also production, when development is complete.

 

Different vaccines – is one better than another?
The vaccines used in Iceland are all very effective against serious COVID-19 disease. To date, there is no evidence to suggest that one vaccine is better than another overall. All are administered in two doses but at different intervals and can have slightly different side effects. Common side effects are similar, except that the side effects are greater after the second dose of mRNA vaccine. The AstraZeneca vaccine, however, results in side effects that are greater after the first dose. For certain groups, it may be important to get a complete vaccination quickly, e.g. if immunosuppressive therapy is delayed until vaccination is completed. There are also good arguments for vaccinating the elderly with the mRNA vaccine than with the AstraZeneca vaccine based on research conducted before marketing authorisations in Europe. In Iceland, it is not possible to choose which vaccine you receive, but here you can find a brief explanation on the reasons for the choice of vaccine that is used for each group.

  • Pfizer and Moderna vaccines: mRNA vaccine

In recent years, methods for using genetic material as a vaccine have emerged. A genetic molecule is placed into the fatty coating, and the cells take it up after vaccination. In the COVID-19 vaccines, the genetic material is made of mRNA, which reads the system in our cells and creates proteins according to the "formula" of the mRNA molecule. The protein is transferred to the surface of the cell to allow the immune system to read it. This is normal for cells to do with viruses and bacteria when an infection occurs. To date, such vaccines have been studied for rabies and certain cancers, but none of them have been marketed until the COVID-19 vaccines were introduced. Such vaccines are very simple in content and quick to produce, and the immune response is very limited to the protein that the mRNA molecule stores information about. When one or a few proteins are mostly important, or all important, to achieve a protective immune response, this is a quick and very safe way to create a vaccine. Excipients in the fatty coating include known allergens, and it is therefore important not to vaccinate certain individuals who have known allergies. The individuals responsible for vaccinating must also be prepared to respond to post-vaccination allergic reactions.

 

  • AstraZeneca vaccine: Another inactivated virus is used to house the genetic material of the coronavirus.

Such vaccines contain virus particles that have been rendered incapable of reproduction, added to which is the genetic material for the protein that is most important to the immune system in the fight against the coronavirus. This speeds up the development of a vaccine because there is no need to find a way to safely weaken the coronavirus itself. Instead, other viruses are used that have previously not been used globally for vaccination purposes but which have already been confirmed as being able to weaken the virus safely. Vaccines of this type are not as versatile as mRNA vaccines, as the same attenuated virus cannot be used to vaccinate the same person against different diseases unless done simultaneously, due to the immune response against the virus particle itself.

 

Can the vaccines alter the genetic material of the person being vaccinated?
The external genetic material is broken down in the cell like any other non-nuclear gene, e.g. mRNA produced by the cell itself.

 


Informed consent
It is quite normal that people may be unsure about accepting the vaccine before we know more about these vaccines that are new to the market. We will inform you about the side effects of the approved vaccines here. No informed consent will be required for the vaccination.

 


Can I be infected with COVID-19 by being vaccinated?
None of the vaccines contain live coronavirus, so you will not become infected with COVID-19 by being vaccinated. The most likely side effects will be flu-like symptoms. These are side effects that indicate that our immune system is responding to the vaccine.

 


Will children be vaccinated?
The vaccines that have been developed the furthest have not been tested on children and teenagers. Children are less likely than others to become infected. Vaccinating children and teenagers under the age of 18 is not recommended.

 

Is there any preparation needed for the vaccination?
Dressing with the vaccination in mind is a good idea, i.e. in short-sleeved clothing. The vaccination is done in groups and having to remove clothing takes time; this also delays vaccination. No other preparation is required unless any of the following applies:


Allergies: People with a history of severe allergies must provide this information before being vaccinated. Vaccination may need to be stopped or delayed when there is a history of severe allergies.


Pregnant women may be vaccinated if they so request. They will be included in the same category as before pregnancy, i.e. healthcare workers or those with underlying risk factors (such as high blood pressure), but are not considered to be at particular risk. It is safe to vaccinate women who are breast-feeding.


Disease or treatment effects the timing of vaccinations: Individuals taking biotechnological drugs, undergoing cancer treatment or who are immunocompromised due to illness need to talk to their doctor about the timing of the vaccination. If you are offered a vaccine that cannot be used due to the timing of another treatment, you will be able to get the vaccine at another time.

 


Can I go to work after vaccination?
Due to the possibility of allergies, everyone has to wait for at least 15 minutes after vaccination and some will be asked to wait longer if there is a history of allergies or any other factors that increase the risk of an allergic reaction, but they can still be vaccinated. After that, you can go to work, but many people feel tired after being vaccinated and some get a fever and may therefore have to go home from work, especially after the second vaccination with an mRNA vaccine. Allergy specialists do not recommend strenuous exercise on the day of vaccination.

 


Is an antibody test performed after vaccination?
No. When vaccinated, the body can produce antibodies but also cellular immunity that is not easy to measure. Studies of other vaccines have also shown that antibody responses are not always measurable, although vaccination is effective in reducing the risk of infection and/or the severity of the disease. As a result, there is no reason to measure antibodies after vaccination.

 


How will side effects be monitored?
All vaccines have side effects, although most are mild and short term. When vaccines are developed, the goal is always to ensure that the vaccine is as effective as possible and that the side effects are as few as possible. Even though new vaccines go through in-depth studies, the possibility of rare side effects can never be ruled out, as the studies that have not found any such side effects may occur when the vaccine is put into general use. On approval of vaccines, much is known about common and less common side effects in adults but less so about side effects in children, the elderly and pregnant women unless research is done specifically on these groups as well.

After the vaccines have been put into general use (placed on the market), the Icelandic Medicines Agency and the Directorate of Health will monitor whether unexpected side effects occur. In addition, there is considerable international co-operation with the countries that are using the same vaccines, especially within Europe. The manufacturers of the vaccines, moreover, are obliged to carry out new systematic safety investigations. The general public and healthcare workers may send in notifications of undesirable side effects to the website of the Icelandic Medicines Agency .

More info Side-effects after COVID-19 vaccination.

 

Is an individual insured if side effects that can be traced to the vaccination cause long-term health problems and absence from work (e.g., the European health certificate / health insurance in Iceland)?
Patient insurance applies to this vaccination according to the terms and conditions of the Icelandic Health Insurance.


Is it possible to require someone to be vaccinated?
All vaccinations in Iceland are optional.

 

Will I have to pay for the COVID-19 vaccination?
No, the vaccine is free.

 

If I do not get vaccinated what consequences/limitations can it have:
On my travels?
There are currently no plans to prevent the arrival of unvaccinated people to Iceland. Vaccination is not obligatory in Iceland under any circumstances. The World Health Regulation restricts the powers of member states to require vaccinations or other treatments at the border, but it is not excluded that such requirements will be imposed in some places in the coming years. People travelling to Iceland during the pandemic can expect that border control rules will continue to apply to reduce the risk of further spread of the virus within Iceland. It is possible that individuals who have been vaccinated will be less affected by these rules. This can be expected to happen in more countries, and it is important to familiarise yourself with the rules before travelling.

 

My rights to work / employer's right to employ/dismiss?
Healthcare professionals can expect employers to require vaccination if there are no medical reasons for not being vaccinated, e.g. allergies. Healthcare professionals who do not receive vaccinations may be transferred internally according to the rules of each institution, e.g. from an emergency department job to a job where the unvaccinated worker is less likely to be infected by a patient with COVID-19 or to infect others. Vaccination status can also affect new hires in healthcare institutions. There are no rules on employers' requirements for vaccinations in the general labour market within Iceland, but the rights of people in the labour market are comparable to healthcare workers and other workers who are within the Icelandic trade unions.

 

How is the vaccination against COVID-19 within Iceland progressing?
The first doses of COVID-19 vaccine were given at the end of December 2020.

The progress in vaccination for COVID-19 can be monitored here under the "Vaccination groups" tab.

 

Is it possible that problems will arise if an insufficient proportion of the nation is not vaccinated against COVID-19?
Nine out of every ten Icelanders will definitely or probably accept the vaccination according to surveys such as the one Gallup published in September 2020 and again in January 2021. Only five percent said that they would not or probably not accept vaccination.

The most common reason given for not wanting or probably not wanting to accept the vaccination is that people wish to wait and see the long-term outcome of the vaccination and its possible side effects. A small percentage stated that they were generally against vaccinations, and some stated that they would not accept the vaccination because they had already been infected or that they had been measured with antibodies against the virus.

 

How long will it take to gain control of the pandemic after vaccinations begin?
It will take some time to vaccinate everyone who wishes to be vaccinated. Iceland's agreements with vaccine manufacturers are estimated to be sufficient for over 280,000 persons. It will be necessary to maintain certain social restrictions for at least the first few months after vaccination.

The probability of public life returning to normal after vaccination is well under way in Iceland and depends on the effects of the vaccine and its ability to prevent not only serious illness, but also the spread of the coronavirus. If there is still a risk of infection spreading throughout Iceland after the widespread use of the vaccine, there will still need to be some restrictions in place to reduce the risk of it spreading.


Fyrst birt 28.12.2020
Síðast uppfært 17.05.2021

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