Iceland’s Herd Immunity Plan Likely Impacted by Vaccine Delay

Iceland’s plan to achieve herd immunity already by the end of March will likely be impacted by production delays at Covid-19 vaccine supplier Pfizer, the country’s chief epidemiologist warned Thursday.

Earlier this month, the Health Ministry said it wanted to vaccinate 75% of Icelanders born in 2005 or earlier by the end of the first quarter. But according to Thorolfiur Gudnason, that target won’t be achieved until the end of next year.

“We finally have a clear picture of the vaccine shipment from Pfizer,” Gudnason said. “Because of the producers’ shortage of raw materials, the production will be delayed, so it is clear we will get less than we anticipated,” he said during a briefing in Reykjavik.

“As for the other vaccines, it is unclear when in the year 2021 distribution can start, but according to current plans I suspect that cannot occur until the middle of 2021 and likely not until the later part of the year. This means we will not reach a good herd immunity until late next year,” he said.

Experts at the Health Ministry have said that herd immunity would be achieved once at least 60% of the population is inoculated.

Iceland is covered by the European Union’s procurement program.

Here’s an overview of its vaccine orders:

  • AstraZeneca – 230,000 doses (covering 115,000 individuals)
  • Pfizer – 170,000 doses (85,000)
  • Janssen – Johnson & Johnson – 235,000 doses (contract not yet signed)
  • Moderna – not available (contract not yet signed)
  • CureVac – not available (still in Phase II)
  • Sanofi – not available (still in Phase II)

Iceland plans to start vaccinating about 1,000 front-line health workers and nursing home residents as soon as possible after Christmas, Gudnason said.

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