It will be completely voluntary to take the corona vaccine when it is ready, Minister of Health Bent Høie (H) states. He believes that enough people will choose to take it.
“No, we have no tradition of compulsory vaccination in Norway, nor have we ever needed it, because the support for vaccination has been very high. It has actually been increasing in recent years,” says Høie to NTB.
Research communities and drug companies around the world are vying to be the first to come up with a vaccine against COVID-19. On Thursday, the Minister of Health stated that the first vaccine will hopefully be approved before Christmas, and that the first doses will probably reach Norwegians in early 2021.
“Of course, we will not get a vaccine for the entire population at once, so there will be prioritization in the roll-out. It is common to first protect those who work in the health service and who are in extra vulnerable groups,” says Høie.
Serious side effects
The last time a pandemic ravaged Norway, during the swine flu in 2009, 2.2 million Norwegians chose to follow the health authorities’ advice to get vaccinated. In retrospect, it turned out that the vaccine increased the risk of developing the sleep disorder narcolepsy.
“Because so many were vaccinated, we discovered that there was a small group that tolerated this vaccine less well and had a number of side effects that were not detected in the large and broad testing. This is something that can happen,” Høie emphasizes.
In total, the Norwegian authorities have paid out NOK 365 million to 154 people who developed serious side effects after taking the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix in 2009 and 2010.
Høie says that the experience from that time is that we often have to be even more open about possible risks and more aware of which groups you vaccinate first. He says that children probably won’t be vaccinated first.
“A vaccine that comes into use will be tested and considered safe enough. But it is quite clear that when a vaccine is new, you will gain more knowledge about the effect and side effects as a larger proportion use it,” he says.
The corona vaccine will probably be developed in record time.
Department Director Line Vold at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) emphasizes that the development is subject to strict regimes and systems to ensure that the vaccine is safe before it enters the market.
She believes that enough people will get vaccinated, even though it is voluntary.
“This vaccine skepticism is also something we must look at and address. But overall, the situation in Norway is that people have great confidence in the systems for vaccination and that very many use the vaccines that are available,” she says.
NIPH has appointed a group which, together with experts in other agencies, is preparing the roll-out of the vaccine in Norway.
“They are looking at how to do it practically, and they are modeling the effect,” she says.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today