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  • Risk groups and their relatives

Risk groups and their relatives - advice and information

Advice and information about COVID-19 for risk groups and their relatives.

Advice and information about COVID-19 for risk groups and their relatives.

The general infection control advice, such as staying home when you are ill and having good cough etiquette and hand hygiene, still applies to protect against infection from respiratory tract infections including COVID-19, see:

In addition, the risk of respiratory tract infections will be reduced by avoiding crowds and avoiding contact with people with respiratory tract diseases, especially when there is widespread transmission in society.

Most people who become infected with coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) will experience mild respiratory tract symptoms that pass. Some groups are at particular risk of developing a more severe disease course (resulting in hospital admission, intensive care or even death), but even the majority of people in risk groups will experience mild symptoms.

The risk of a severe COVID-19 disease course rises with age and underlying medical conditions, with men being at greater risk than women. 

Vaccine against COVID-19

The purpose of vaccination against COVID-19 is to prevent disease or to make the course of the disease milder. Everyone who is recommended to take the COVID-19 vaccine are encouraged to take it.

Vaccination and having had COVID-19 provide relatively good protection against a severe disease course. Vaccinated people in risk groups can therefore generally live more like everyone else by following the general infection control advice.

However, vaccination is no guarantee against reinfection with the COVID-19 virus or transmitting it to others.

Protection against infection may diminish over time. The NIPH recommends that the following groups should take a new booster dose (for most adults this will be dose no. 4) with coronavirus vaccine before the coming winter season:

  • People in the age group 65 years and older
  • People in the 18-64 age group with an underlying risk of a severe disease course
  • Young people in the age group 12-17 years with a serious underlying condition
  • Pregnant women in the 2nd and 3rd trimester

Healthy people under the age of 65 may have the corona vaccine if they wish to do so.

Contact with others

People in risk groups must assess the risk of infection against the need of contact with others, and decide which measures are suitable to visit family and friends, based on one's own risk of a severe disease course from respiratory tract infections, how widespread local transmission is, their contact patterns, recent COVID-19 disease, their vaccination status and whether they have newly arisen respiratory tract infections.

Choosing a small group of people to interact with regularly will reduce the risk of transmission.

In times of widespread transmission in society, people in risk groups can use face masks where they cannot maintain a distance.

People with newly arisen symptoms of a cold or respiratory tract infection are recommended to use face masks if they need to care for or visit people in risk groups.

Risk groups for a severe COVID-19 disease course 

Risk assessment applies at a group level, not to the individual. There will be considerable individual variations within each risk group.  If necessary, speak to your doctor about your risk of a severe COVID-19 disease course.

Younger people are at a low risk of a severe COVID-19 disease course, but those with poorly managed diseases/conditions, or combinations of several underlying conditions, may be at greater risk.  

The following people are recommended to consider shielding themselves in periods of widespread transmission in society, by for example limiting the number of close contacts. The risk varies within the groups, and as a general rule the risk increases with age and the number of underlying risk conditions:

  • People in risk groups who have not followed current vaccine recommendations.
  • People (regardless of vaccination status) with:
    • diagnosed severe and moderate immunodeficiency
    • organ transplantation
    • haematological cancer in the past five years
    • other active cancer, ongoing or recently completed anti-cancer treatment (especially immunosuppressive treatment, radiotherapy to the lungs or chemotherapy
    • severe kidney failure (stage 5) or on active dialysis and patients who are considered by their attending physician to have a severely weakened immune system and who do not belong to one of the above groups.

Further information about risk groups

NIPH’s assessments may change as more knowledge becomes available. Here is an overview of the main risk factors. This assessment applies to people aged over 18 years.


The risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness rises significantly with age, and age appears to be the dominant risk factor regarding the development of severe illness and death.  With advanced age, the incidence of chronic diseases also increases. It may be difficult to distinguish the risk caused by age from the risk caused by disease, but analyses that adjust for several risk factors show that age is an independent risk factor.

A person's risk should not be based solely on age, but also on an individual assessment of their general health.

Organ transplantation

Several studies show that people who have undergone organ transplantation have a significantly increased risk of a severe COVID-19 disease course. People on the waiting list for organ transplantation should preferably be vaccinated before transplantation. Organ transplantation shall not be postponed due to vaccination.

Immune deficiency

This group includes people with severe congenital or acquired immune deficiency conditions that can lead to significant immune deficiency and leads to high risk for severe COVID-19 disease course. The conditions include severe combined immunodeficiency, immunodeficiency associated with major defects (e.g., Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome), common variable immunodeficiency, immunodeficiency with predominant antibody deficiency (e.g., hypogammaglobulinemia) and some other types of severe immunodeficiency conditions. The group also includes HIV patients with low CD4 counts who should be considered for vaccination by their doctor.

People with sickle cell anemia also have an increased risk of a severe disease course.


People with active cancer, ongoing or recently discontinued treatment for cancer (especially immunosuppressive therapy, radiation therapy for the lungs or chemotherapy) have an increased risk of a severe COVID-19 disease course. Active cancer is defined as a cancer that has not been radically treated and assumed to be cured. Recently completed cancer treatment is defined as completed within the last 6 months.

When planning the start of cancer treatment, it should be considered whether patients can be vaccinated before starting. Vaccination should not delay the start of treatment. A large study from England indicates that people with blood cancer have a particularly high risk in the first five years after the diagnosis is made.

Neurological diseases or muscle diseases that cause impaired coughing or lung function

In this group we find people with cerebral palsy (CP), mental retardation, severe muscle diseases, spina bifida, as well as diseases that affect the brain in adults and the elderly (e.g., Parkinson's and ALS). In general for these diseases, people may have physical immobility (e.g., use a wheelchair) and / or reduced lung function and coughing power, risk of food or drink entering the respiratory tract, or they have a genetic condition that increases morbidity.

The risk of a severe disease course in people with CP depends on how severe their CP is, see text above. Milder degrees of CP will not pose any risk in themselves.

Down's syndrome

Several studies show that adults with Down's syndrome have a higher risk of a severe COVID-19 disease course. The risk increases with age. Down's syndrome can lead to an increased incidence of autoimmune diseases, diabetes, low metabolism, obesity, dementia and congenital heart disease. 

Furthermore, people with Down's syndrome may have inappropriate immune responses in COVID-19, which further increases the risk of a severe course. All people with Down's syndrome who are 16 years and older are therefore given priority for vaccination.

Chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease increases the risk of a severe COVID-19 disease course when you adjust for age and other risk factors. This is especially true for people with significantly impaired renal function. People with moderate / severe kidney failure are considered to have a significantly increased risk.

Chronic liver disease

Chronic liver disease also carries an increased risk, especially with significantly impaired liver function.

Immunosuppressive therapy in autoimmune diseases

Patients using immunosuppressive drugs may have an increased risk of severe disease course. It is probably the drugs themselves, and not the underlying disease, that increase the risk. Immunosuppressive drugs include TNF-alpha inhibitors, interleukin inhibitors, methotrexate, and more (see Felleskatalog). These drugs are used, among other things, for multiple sclerosis (MS), inflammatory joint diseases and inflammatory bowel diseases.


Diabetes has been reported as one of the most common underlying diseases in patients with a severe disease course. In studies that have been adjusted for age and other risk factors, patients with diabetes have a higher risk of severe COVID-19. 

The duration of the diabetes disease and the incidence of late diabetic complications seem to increase the risk. Poor blood sugar control is a risk factor for a severe course, but diabetic patients with well-regulated blood sugar levels are also recommended to be vaccinated. All people with diabetes who are 18 years and older are therefore given priority for vaccination.

Chronic lung disease

People with chronic lung disease have increased risk of a severe COVID-19 disease course. This group includes people with severe asthma, who have used high-dose inhaled steroids or steroid tablets during the past year.


People with obesity have an increased risk of a severe disease course, and the risk increases with increasing body mass index (BMI).

Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular diseases include a range of diseases that may increase the risk of a severe COVID-19 disease course. There is evidence to suggest that the risk increases with the severity of the underlying disease. In studies that adjust for age and other risk conditions, high blood pressure does not appear to be an independent risk factor for hospitalisation or death from COVID-19.

Other chronic diseases

A number of studies suggest that dementia and stroke are independent risk factors for a severe COVID-19 disease course

Nursing home residents

Residents of nursing homes are considered to be at greater risk of a severe COVID-19 disease course, based on a combination of advanced age, frailty, multiple chronic diseases, impaired functions and low activity level.

Children and adolescents

The risk of serious COVID-19 disease course among children and adolescents is generally very low. This includes children and adolescents with serious and chronic illnesses or conditions, even though this group have a somewhat higher risk of hospital admissions. The total number of children with serious underlying illnesses who are admitted to hospital with COVID-19, is still very low and they have good prognosis.

Together with Norwegian Society of Pediatricians (Norsk Barnelegeforening) the NIPH recommend most children and adolescents with chronic illnesses and conditions to attend kindergarten and school as normal. It is very rare that siblings of children with rare underlying illnesses should be kept home from school and social arenas.

However, for some children with a serious illness, based on a general recommendation on protection against infectious illnesses, there will be a need to arrange adapted teaching and activity after assessment by the responsible paediatrician.

All children over 6 months of  age with serious underlying diseases will now be offered vaccination. The vaccines are effective in order to protect against a severe COVID-19 disease course, and even only one dose offers good protection.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women

Most pregnant women will get a mild disease course. Pregnant women with COVID-19 who develop symptoms still have a slightly higher risk of needing treatment in hospital, intensive care unit and with a respirator compared with non-pregnant women with COVID-19 of the same age.

The risk of severe progression increases if the pregnant woman has underlying diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and / or obesity. The risk for pregnant women increases with the length of pregnancy when they are infected. The NIPH therefore recommends that pregnant women should be vaccinated, read more here: 

People with impaired immune systems

Patients with severely impaired immune systems should, even after vaccination with booster doses, be aware that they may have lower protection than people with normal immune function and should therefore consider to live more sheltered when there is widespread transmission in society. In addition, it is important that close contacts in the same household are vaccinated.

Together with medical experts and the specialist health service, NIPH has prepared an overview of the diseases for, and medications used by, people who are recommended to have three doses, and at least two booster doses (as per December 2022).  People with severely compromised immune systems can be considered for more booster doses by the doctor who knows their situation best.

For vaccination of people with underlying conditions, see:

Employees in risk groups who are not vaccinated or have not had COVID-19

The Norwegian Directorate of Health has prepared its own recommendations for employers in the health sector. 

Should people in risk groups change ongoing treatment?

No. There is no reason to advise against starting or stopping ongoing immunosuppressant treatment. If people who use immunosuppressants become ill, they should contact their doctor for advice about medication, testing and examination.

What should you do if you become ill?

For some groups with a particularly high risk of developing a severe disease course, drug treatment may be appropriate (hdir.no)

If you develop other acute symptoms that you would normally seek medical attention for, contact the healthcare service - your own doctor, or the out-of-hours medical service (116 117). With severe symptoms ring 113.

The advice about vaccination is updated regularly: 

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health recommends that people in risk groups receive an influenza vaccine every year and a pneumococcal vaccine (against pneumonia) every ten years. These vaccines will not prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2.


The Norwegian Institute of Public Health receives an immense amount of enquiries about the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to reply individually to members of the public. 

Our advisory service is primarily intended for Norwegian government agencies, the healthcare service and municipalities. 

General public

You will find general advice about coronavirus on this website and on helsenorge.no

If you do not find the answer your to your question, you can ring the information helpline 815 55 015 that is open on weekdays from 08:00-15:30.

The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration has answers to many frequently asked questions about travelling to Norway, and a helpline 23351600 that is open on weekdays from 10:00-14:00. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also has answers to many frequently asked questions.

If you need acute medical attention, contact your doctor. If you cannot reach your doctor, contact the emergency out-of-hours clinic on 116117. If life is in danger, call 113.

For questions about the Smittestopp app, ring Helsenorge on 23 32 70 00.

For healthcare personnel

You will find information on these pages and at helsedirektoratet.no

If you are a healthcare professional who is responsible for infection control at their institution can ring Smittevernvakta.

For questions about whether or not you should attend work if you are a healthcare worker, contact the person who is responsible for infection control at your institution. 

Contact your doctor or emergency out-of-hours clinic for questions about your personal health.


Himmels JPW, Borge TC, Brurberg KG, Gravningen KM, Feruglio SL, Berild JD. COVID-19: COVID-19 and risk factors for hospital admission, severe disease and death, 3rd Update  Oslo: Norwegian Institute of Public Health, 2020.

Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Weekly reports about coronavirus and COVID-19.


15.12.2022: Updated as per Norwegian version

09.12.2022: updated with advice concerning drug treatment

07.04.2022: Removed text about 4 days of isolation and testing with symptoms.

15.02.2022: Updated after new recommendations dated 12.02.22. Changed the structure of risk groups. Vaccine status included in risk assessment.

22.12.2021: updated section "Vaccine against COVID-19" with information about booster dose.

21.12.2021: New section about visits.

30.11.2021: Update of text, links and general language. Elaboration of vaccine effect in risk groups. Elaboration of advice for the elderly who have received a booster dose. Removed headline with own advice for unvaccinated in risk groups. Now emphasises the recommendation for a booster dose. Children with a serious underlying condition aged 5-11 years will be offered the Comirnaty child vaccine at the turn of the year.

24.09.2021: Update of advice now that the majority in Norway are now vaccinated. Deleted table for advice on various infection risk levels in society. Elaborated on the text about children and adolescents at risk. Inserted recommendation of coronavirus vaccine for pregnant women and third dose for severely immunosuppressed. Deleted General advice for relatives.

07.09.2021: Updated text about children in risk groups

26.07.2021: Added sentence about "It has not been opened up for vaccination of healthy children and young people who are close contacts with people in risk groups".

02.06.2021: Changed age limit for which groups of children / adolescents should be offered vaccination. Updated advice and links for vaccinated people in the risk group.

02.06.2021: Updated section about children and vaccines.

12.05.2021: Updated and clarified prioritisation of people with diabetes for vaccination.

04.05.2021: Added further information about the risk of severe COVID-19 in adults with Down's syndrome

29.04.2021: Down's syndrome has now been changed to a separate group under Groups with moderate / high risk. An in-depth description of Neurological diseases or muscle diseases that cause impaired coughing power or lung function. Inserted a new section about pregnant and breastfeeding women.

19.03.2021: Removed cystic fibrosis as an example under chronic lung diseases.

10.03.2021 New text about active cancer, cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome and vaccination 

17.02.2021 Changed age for groups with light/moderate risk from 65-79 to 65-69 years. Changed age for groups with moderate/high risk from 80 years and over to 70 years and over. Added footnote about exponential increase in risk from 70 years and over.

01.02.2021 Changed name from Assessment to further information about risk groups. New text about organ transplants, immune deficiency, including people with sickle cell anemia, cancer, immunosuppressive therapy for autoimmune diseases, and clarification that the risk of Down's syndrome applies to adults (> 18 years)

26.01.2021 Linguistic changes and updated links. Given differentiated advice to fully vaccinated vs. unvaccinated persons in risk groups. Updated definition of asthma: severe asthma that has resulted in the use of high-dose inhaled steroids or steroid tablets in the past year.

13.01.2021 Changed definition of asthma. Added link to "Who can get the vaccine"

05.01.2021 Updated section about vaccination, including:When you are fully vaccinated, it is likely that you will have a lower risk of serious illness and thus be able to live less secluded.

23.12.2020 Text and content have been harmonised with chapters on vaccination. Clarified that the advice applies to people 18 years and older. New text on assessment of spread of infection / risk level. Changed order of diseases / conditions according to order in another text dealing with vaccination against COVID-19. Inserted a new definition of asthma as a chronic disease. The term "well-regulated asthma" has been removed. It is specified that the increased risk of a severe course of Down's syndrome applies to adults 18+ years of age.

01.12.2020 Linguistic changes. Risk groups updated and changed according to the latest rapid review about COVID-19 and risk factors for hospitalisation, severe disease course and death. Changed heading from moderate / high risk to high risk, and moved several groups from this category to the category slightly increased risk. Dementia and stroke are included in the list of slightly increased risk. Updated section on vaccination.

25.09.2020 Removed sentence that there is little transmission in Norway.

14.08.2020 Removed sentence about a lack of vaccine for pneumococcal disease and prioritisation for those at highest risk for the disease.

Replaced information about workplace adjustment in the red box in the matrix about advice for risk groups with information about sick leave and links to nav.no.

Changed BMI from 35 to 30 according to systematic review, vn 2. Minor linguistic updates according to Norwegian version.
Removed reference to Mehra et al. Cardiovascular Disease, Drug Therapy, and Mortality in Covid-19 because study is withdrawn from New England Journal of Medicine.

Updated link to Directorate of Health

General updates throughout the article, as per Norwegian text.

Added "People over 65 years are advised to keep a distance from people outside their household, including children. This can also apply to people under 65 years with chronic conditions. People under 65 years who are healthy do not have the same risk and can be with others according to the recommendations given.  New knowledge shows that children become ill to a lesser extent and have few symptoms. It is mainly people with symptoms who are most contagious."

Moved paragraph about work, as per Norwegian version. No changes to advice.

Updated according to Norwegian article. Changes in groups with increased risk. Smoking removed as risk factor. Added paragraph about evaluation points in a work setting.

General updates throughout the article, as per Norwegian text.

Clarification of text - people who smoke and people with overweight/obesity can have an increased risk, as per Norwegian text.

Updated text according to Norwegian version

Figure 55 000 is changed back to 44 000 as per an earlier version of this article.

Updated text according to changes in Norwegian text. Added paragraph about children and healthcare personnel in risk groups

Updated text according to changes in Norwegian text - user organisations

Updated text according to changes in Norwegian text

Updated text according to changes in Norwegian text

Added paragraph about attending appointments. Updated advice about avoiding infection.

Changes according to Norwegian text - added sentence about events and consider the need for travel.