A plan for how the COVID-19 vaccine will be administered to Svalbard residents is in place, but when the vaccine is available remains unknown, officials said Tuesday.
“We are following the national guidelines for who should be offered vaccinations and the order in which they should be vaccinated,” said Knut Selmer, the infection control doctor at Longyearbyen Hospital, said in a prepared statement.
Vaccinations will be voluntary and free of charge.
Norway expects to begin offering COVID-19 vaccinations in Oslo Dec. 27 if the European Union EU approves the first vaccine by Dec 23, Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie said at a press conference. The first delivery will consist of about 10,000 doses, enough for 5,000 patients, with subsequent shipments considerably larger.
Norway expects to receive 2.5 million doses to inoculate 1.25 million people – about one-fourth of the country’s population – during the first quarter of 2021, Høie said. The doses are sufficient for the roughly 1.3 million people in Norway considered in high-risk groups, although about 340,000 health personnel in contact with patients will have to wait.
Oslo residents will be the first treated because that’s where the infection rate is highest, according to health officials.
Svalbard remains among fewer than 10 “countries” as classified by the World Health Organization with no diagnosed COVID-19 cases due to extreme restriction implemented because of the archipelago’s remoteness and lack of suitable treatment facilities. While the date the vaccine will arrive in Svalbard is unknown, Selmer said residents high on the priority list should act now.
“We ask that people with serious underlying conditions contact Longyearbyen Hospital and put themselves on a list for those who want a vaccination,” he said. The hospital’s telephone number is 7902 4200 and its e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The top priority on Norway’s list as of Monday – residents in nursing homes – doesn’t apply to Svalbard since there are no such facilities here. The rest of the priority list in descending order is as follows:
• Age 85 years and older
• Age 75-84 years
• Age 65-74 years and highest at-risk people 18-64 years
• Age 55-64 years with underlying disease/condition
• Age 45-54 years with underlying disease/condition
• Age 18-44 years with underlying disease/condition
• Age 55-64 years
Selmer told Svalbardposten that the top four priority groups will essentially be merged locally. He estimates there are at most 40 residents ages 65 and older in Svalbard, and a total of about 150 residents in the first four groups.