Assistant Director of Health Espen Rostrup Nakstad in the Norwegian Directorate of Health answers questions from 09.45.
Pfizer announced on Wednesday that their corona vaccine has worked well in children between 12 and 15 years old.
– It looks like it will be one of the vaccines that first gets a temporary approval for use under 16 years. And of course it is important to have vaccines that can also be used on adolescents or children. If it proves necessary to vaccinate this group as well, says Nakstad.
– When can it happen in Norway?
– I probably think that it is first treated in the European Medicines Agency, and if it is approved there, the Norwegian Medicines Agency and FHI must decide whether this should be included in the vaccination program and also include those under 18 years of age.
Nakstad says the race, which has been put in place for approval, will probably not lead to vaccination of children becoming relevant until after the summer.
– We do not know for sure, but it certainly looks like most adults will be offered vaccines until the summer. In time, this offer may appear after the adults have been vaccinated.
According to the Pfizer study, the vaccine showed a 100 percent effect against serious illness in the people included in the study
– It is important that good studies are carried out. This is a vaccine that has already been used many millions of times, and which has temporary approval for use over 16 years. Then it is important to document that there are no problems with side effects and that it also shows a good effect in those under 16 years of age.
– When will the borders for entry reopen?
– To my knowledge, this border control with testing and quarantine hotel is something that will last until after Easter. How long it lasts will depend on the infection situation in the countries around us and mutations, says Nakstad, and adds that in the end it is the government that decides this.
– Why do we not have a Russian vaccine here in Norway?
– It is because all vaccines go through an approval process in EMA. Then, if they are found to be effective and safe, they will get an approval from EMA. The vaccines we have in Norway and the Janssen vaccine are the ones that have been approved, and then there are more on the trail to both apply for approval and be approved. Then we will see which EU decides to buy in.
The WHO said in a press release on Thursday that vaccination in Europe is “unacceptably slow” and that it is prolonging the pandemic.
– It is the case with all vaccinations that it is at the mercy of production capacity of vaccines. In this pandemic, we had received vaccines before a year had passed since the virus broke out, so it has gone quickly. But when 7.8 billion people live on earth, and everyone basically wants vaccines, then it is clear that it is a huge job to produce vaccines in a safe way and deliver high quality vaccines to so many people eventually. So it is not surprising that this takes time, Nakstad believes.
– It is the case that some of the countries, not least the USA, have factories and produce vaccines, but it is also produced in the UK and Belgium, for example. Norway has entered into an agreement with the EU, which secures us vaccines, while the USA has agreements that have secured perhaps more vaccines at an earlier stage, so it is different. If we look outside the western countries, there are very few vaccines available so far. This is simply a market where the number of vaccines available for sale is basically the limiting factor.
– Do we have the right pace in Norway?
– In Norway, the pace is very high, and you use the vaccines you get very quickly. So based on the deliveries we receive, Norway is well placed in Europe in terms of vaccination, but as I said, it is the vaccines we receive that actually determine the pace, and we do not get to do much with that.
– How many must refuse to take the vaccine before it goes beyond the protection of the population?
– Figures from Pfizer and Moderne show that they also largely protect against the spread of infection. This is very important information, and means that vaccinated people will be able to infect others to a very small extent. The more people who are vaccinated, the fewer people it can infect, and it becomes more difficult for the virus to spread. These are simple calculations, where you end up with a number of people who must be vaccinated for the virus not to be able to spread at all. We do not know that number, but we are probably dependent on a large majority in the adult part of the population who must be vaccinated, so that the virus does not spread in the adult part. Then there is the uncertainty surrounding children and young people, who now seem to infect each other quite a lot. It can be something that makes the pandemic last longer, because the infection spreads in the youngest age groups. Exactly how many must be vaccinated in the end and whether one actually manages to achieve herd immunity in many countries, remains to be seen.
– Who is being vaccinated now in Oslo?
– To my knowledge, you have come about the same distance throughout Norway and you have come in the age group down to about 75 years and also down to 70 years. Oslo will now gradually get a little more vaccines based on a skewed distribution approved by the government. Then there are some districts in Oslo that will get more vaccines and you may get further down in age at an earlier time.
Of younger age groups, it is now mostly health personnel who are offered vaccines, Nakstad adds.
– Will it be relevant with mass testing in hard-hit areas?
– We have worked a lot with this for a long time, and quite shortly after Easter we will offer municipalities in areas with a lot of infection a scheme where they can use rapid tests, among other things, to test students regularly. This is to find infection before it has time to spread.
– This is a large focus area that is important to keep schools open and to keep the infection down in the most affected areas. We have purchased many millions of quick tests and also test commuters that allow you to take the test yourself in the front part of the nose.
The quick tests can be done up to twice a week and will be a supplement to other measures, says Nakstad.
According to Nakstad, you can analyze the samples from, for example, an entire class at once and if the sample is positive, you can go back to test everyone to find out who should be isolated and who should not.
– Once you have received the AstraZeneca vaccine – what about vaccine number two?
– This is something FHI is now looking at. At present, we do not know how it will be and it depends on effect studies abroad. Most people will probably be offered a second dose. Whether it will be Ofizer, Moderna or another vaccine, we do not know yet. We also do not know if they will be offered two doses of another vaccine. But there are quite a few people who are in that situation now who have received the first dose of it and are now wondering if they should take a second dose of AstraZeneca, or if they should get something else.
Nakstad says that studies have been done on individual vaccines and their effects and also studies on the effect of a dose.
– Then you can make calculations because there are different types of immunity. It may be that one dose of one vaccine and one dose of another actually have the same effect. But we do not yet have that knowledge, says Nakstad.
– I think those involved will get at least as good immunity as those who have received two doses of the same vaccine, says Nakstad.
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