How will Norway decide who gets a coronavirus vaccine first?
An expert committee in Norway has recommended senior citizens and people suffering with other diseases be prioritised ahead of health sector staff and other essential workers when the country begins a future coronavirus vaccination programme.
The committee, appointed by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), has been tasked with making recommendations on how limited numbers of coronavirus vaccines might be distributed in Norway in spring 2021. Experts on ethics and prioritisation are included in the committee.
“The most important thing as I see it is equality and equal treatment, not social status, as the decisive factor. And it is the risk of death and serious illness which should be the leading principal,” Reidun Førde, a member of the committee, said to broadcaster NRK.
Prioritisation of vaccine doses is to be decided by the government by December 1st, according to NRK.
Those who are in the highest-risk group for death or serious illness due to Covid-19 in Norway are the approximately 1.6 million people in the country who are considered at heightened risk from seasonal influenza, given that the risk group overlaps to a high degree with that for the coronavirus, NRK writes.
If availability of a vaccine is limited to several hundred thousand doses in the early months, prioritisation within the larger risk group may also be necessary, Førde said.
Such prioritisation has not been considered by the ethical committee, however.
“An ethics group like this cannot go in and start fine tuning these difficult judgements. We also don’t have a good knowledge of how these vaccines work on different risk and age groups,” Førde said.
Decisions regarding prioritisation of different patient groups must rest with health authorities, she added.
Health service workers are given second priority behind risk groups in the ethics group’s assessment.
But a “dynamic” model is also advised, so that health staff could be moved forward in the queue if Norway finds itself in an outbreak situation.