Norway among countries in Europe that have vaccinated the fewest people

VaccinationPhoto: Heiko Junge / NTB

In Finland, almost 80% of all people over the age of 16 will soon be vaccinated with one dose of the corona vaccine. Few EU countries have administered fewer doses than Norway.

Finland is at the top of the list of countries in the EU’s vaccination program that have given the majority of their population at least one dose. 

According to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Finland has now vaccinated 66% of everyone over the age of 16. In comparison, Norway has vaccinated 51.3% of all people over the age of 18. The figures apply to the proportion of those who have received one vaccine dose. 

Finland has a much lower proportion of fully vaccinated people than Norway and most countries in Europe – only 18% of those over 16. Norway has 34.1% of fully vaccinated people. 

Near herd immunity

Finland may become the first major EU country to achieve herd immunity. Infection control manager Mia Kontio of THL told news bureau NTB that 80% of those over the age of 18 will receive one dose by the beginning of July, while most over the age of 70 will be fully vaccinated. 

With that, the country will be very close to herd immunity.

“What is a high enough vaccine coverage to win the battle? Nobody knows, I think. But I am sure that it will have an effect both on the spread of infection and on hospitalizations,” Kontio said.

EU countries receive vaccines through an even distribution, but there are large differences in how many doses have been administered in each country. 

Norway stands out negatively.

Bottom of Europe

While more than ten EU countries have given more than half of the population one vaccine dose, only six EU countries are worse than Norway, the overview from Our World In Data shows.

Norway has vaccinated almost 40% of the entire population. Only Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, Latvia, Romania, and Bulgaria have vaccinated a lower proportion. Countries such as Denmark, Germany, and Italy are over 50%.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) did not answer NTB’s questions about why Norway is so far behind the other European countries. Assistant director Jasper Littmann of the FHI’s vaccine program answered very briefly:

“Norway receives doses in accordance with the agreement with the EU and sends out all doses to the municipalities as soon as they arrive in the country,” he said in a statement via the media office at the FHI.

The secret of the Finns

Finland’s head of infection control, Mia Kontio, thinks she knows the answer to why Finland is now among the best in Europe. The Finns already decided in February to go against the EU and extend the period between vaccine doses from six to twelve weeks. The Finns have stood by that decision, and according to Kontio, it has become a success story.

In comparison, Norway waited until April 30 to do the same, before going back to six weeks for a while before the delta virus forced it to extend the period again.

“We made that decision early and have stood by it. I think that is the effect of our early decision we see now. That decision has proven to be very good also in new studies,” Kontio said.

More infection – fewer patients

Although new virus variants such as the infectious delta variant have been shown to be contagious even for many of those with only one dose, it seems that those with one vaccine dose get mild symptoms. This has been seen in Norway, for example, in Færder, where a high proportion of fully vaccinated people have been infected without having a serious course of illness.

“It seems to be better to have more time between the two doses, especially for the elderly,” Kontio said.

“Of course, they are vulnerable a little longer, but I think the elderly and those in the risk group will have lived a protected life between doses,” Kontio added.

Fully vaccinated by August

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare has not considered changing strategy.

“It seemed like a very good choice already in February based on basic immunology, with uplifting figures from the UK,” Kontio noted.

Kontio stated that the Finns seem to be very eager to get the vaccine, also in the younger age groups. 

“What we estimate is that we will reach 70% coverage for the fully vaccinated in the population over 16 years towards the end of August,” Kontio said.

Norway points to AstraZeneca and Jansen

State Secretary Saliba Andreas Korkunc (H) of the Ministry of Health and Care Services says that the main reason why many European countries have vaccinated more than Norway is that Norway does not use the AstraZeneca vaccine or the Janssen vaccine.

“These are vaccines that are still used by most other European countries,” he said.

Saliba also pointed out that the vaccine pace in Norway has picked up speed recently.

“2.2 million Norwegians have now received at least one vaccine dose, which corresponds to over 50% of the adult population. If everything goes according to plan, all Norwegians over the age of 18 will have been offered the first dose of vaccine by mid-August. The support for the vaccination program is very good, and we, therefore, expect higher coverage overall, compared with very many other countries,” Saliba said.

Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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