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Since January this year, the world has been fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Local outbreaks that we are now facing in Norway show that the pandemic is not over, and an increase in the number of confirmed cases is expected. A coronavirus vaccine can help reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 disease course or death.
Vaccination is one of the most effective forms of prevention of infectious diseases. The aim of vaccination is to prevent disease or to give a milder disease course without the risk of serious side effects.
Major resources have been invested to develop good vaccines against the new coronavirus Several vaccine candidates are under development. Some of them have come a long way in the development process. However, challenges may arise along the way that could delay or stop the development of some of the vaccines.
Norway is part of the European pharmaceutical network. The European Medicines Agency facilitates the rapid development and approval of COVID-19 vaccines. Although the European Medicines Agency is establishing accelerated procedures, sufficient evidence of satisfactory efficacy, safety and quality must still be provided. A vaccine is only approved if the benefit is considered to outweigh the risk.
The Norwegian Medicines Agency assesses clinical documentation and approves vaccines for use in Norway, in collaboration with the European Medicines Agency.
When the vaccines are approved, we know that they will give a satisfactory effect, but we do not know how long the effect will last.
All vaccines have side effects, but most are mild and temporary. When vaccines are developed, the goal is always for vaccines to give the best possible effect with the fewest possible side effects. Even though new vaccines are tested thoroughly, it is still possible that rare side effects arise. Side effects may only be discovered when the vaccine is in use and is given to many more and more varied groups than in the studies.
After the vaccines are in use, the Norwegian Medicines Agency, together with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, will monitor whether unexpected side effects arise. There is also extensive international collaboration with the other countries that use the same vaccines, in addition to systematic safety studies that the vaccine manufacturers are required to perform by European Medicines Agency.
Who should get the vaccine?
There is an ongoing process of defining which groups should be recommended to take the vaccine and this has not yet been concluded. Due to limited availability, the vaccine will probably be prioritised to begin with. The government will determine prioritisation based on the advice of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
All vaccination in Norway is voluntary.
The vaccine candidates that have come the furthest in development have not been tested on children under 16 years of age. Children have a lower disease burden than the rest of the population. It is therefore less likely that children will be recommended vaccination.
Organisation and costs
Coronavirus vaccination will be part of the national immunisation programme. This means that municipalities will provide vaccination to people who live or stay in the municipality. Both vaccines and vaccinations in the coronavirus immunisation programme shall be given to people in the target groups without charge.