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COVID-19

Report claims Norway has overpaid for Covid-19 vaccines

Norway has overpaid by almost four billion kroner for its Covid-19 jabs, and the consequences are much larger than the monetary cost, a report from The People's Vaccine Alliance claimed Thursday. 

Report claims Norway has overpaid for Covid-19 vaccines
A patient getting a Covid-19 shot. Photo by Steven Cornfield on Unsplash

The Norwegian government have overpaid for its Covid-19 mRNA vaccines by roughly €375 million or just under four billion kroner, a new report from vaccine equality group The People’s Vaccine Alliance has claimed. 

The report claimed that countries have paid between four and 24 times the manufacturing cost to secure vaccine doses. The report refers to an estimate from think tank Public Citizen that said an mRNA vaccine dose could be produced for around $1.20.

In total, they estimate that Pfizer and Moderna have taken as much as $41 billion more in payments from world governments than it costs to produce the vaccines. 

The figures on overpayment are estimates from the organisation as not all the information on how much governments are procuring vaccines for compared to the cost of production is publicly available.

The reason why governments are overpaying, according to the vaccine equality group, is because the manufacturers have a monopoly as they aren’t required to share their recipes.   

This, they believe, has led to a bidding war between countries to buy up larger shipments. The report states that this has had a knock-on effect of pricing developing countries struggling with the pandemic out of access to jabs. 

READ ALSO: Norway to offer 16-and-17-year-olds Covid-19 vaccine

“High prices also directly contribute to the extreme vaccine shortage in the global south. Without the necessary budgets to compete with rich countries, low- and middle-income countries will be pushed to the back of the vaccine queue,” the report outlined. 

The leader of the Red Party, Bjørnar Moxnes, has slammed the government over the claims that it has overpaid in order secure vaccines. 

“Norway may have paid as much as four billion more than necessary for mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. If that is the case, it is a scandal of historical dimensions,” Moxnes told newspaper VG

He also called on the government to put the World Trade Organisation (WTO) under more pressure to lobby vaccine companies to make their recipes available.

“The consequences are more death and a prolonged pandemic. Now the monopoly must be broken and action taken to ensure increased, decentralised production worldwide,” the Red Party’s leader added. 

Norway’s Minister for Development and Aid, Dag-Inge Ulstein, told VG that equal global access to Covid-19 jabs was a priority for the government. 

“The industry must be held responsible for contributing to fair prices, rapid approval, increased production capacity and technology transfer and greater transparency. These are principles that we have worked for internationally,” Ulstein said. 

The aid minister also defended the pharmaceutical companies profiting from vaccines but added that he expected them to act responsibly. 

“The report points to very high profits at some of the vaccine companies. We have not been able to go into the calculations, which probably do not include all costs. We expect the industry to make a profit, partly to cover its early investment in risky research and development, but we also expect responsibility from the industry,” Ulstein added. 

Vaccine manufacturer Pfizer hit out the report’s claim that companies were profiting from vaccine doses and pricing out developing countries from access to jabs. 

“First, we have set both low prices and a fair price policy for this vaccine. In rich countries like Norway, the price is on par with a train ticket to Moss. Our price is completely insignificant in relation to the value of the vaccines. In other countries, prices are even lower, and to those countries that are defined as lower or low middle-income countries, we sell the vaccines at a production price, i.e. without profit,” Joachim Henriksen, communications manager for Pfizer, told VG. 

The communications manager added that the development of vaccines has to be profitable in order to invest in funding and research. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Tourists: What to do if you catch Covid-19 in Norway 

All Covid travel rules for Norway have been completely lifted for a while now- but what happens if you test positive or start to develop Covid symptoms while you are here?

Tourists: What to do if you catch Covid-19 in Norway 

Covid travel rules in Norway have been lifted for a while, and all but a few recommendations remain domestically. This is a far cry from a similar time last year when Norway had very strict travel rules in place. 

Testing

Close contacts of Covid infected are not required to get a test, meaning if you have been in contact with somebody with Covid-19, you will not be required to get tested under the official rules. 

However, if you wish to take a test, you can buy self-tests at supermarkets and pharmacies. You can also order Covid-19 tests from Norwegian municipalities if you want a PCR test. You can find the contact information for every municipality in Norway here. Facemasks are also widely available in shops and pharmacies. 

Several private providers, such as Volvat and Dr Dropin, offer antigen and PCR tests with results within 24 hours. However, municipality tests can take longer to deliver results. If you need a test to travel home, you will not be able to get one from a local authority. These tests are only for those with symptoms of Covid-19.  

Home tests will not cost more than 60 kroner from supermarkets, while a municipality test will be free. However, private providers’ tests are pricier, costing between 1,000 and 1,500 kroner at most private clinics.

Isolation

There are also no specific rules in regards to isolation. 

“If you have respiratory symptoms, you should stay at home until you feel well. If you feel well, you can live as normal,” Helsenorge advises on its websiteMeaning that if you are asymptomatic, you aren’t advised to isolate. 

Other symptoms which you may need to isolate with include headache and blocked nose and influenza-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat and feeling unwell. 

The isolation information means you will need to liaise with the hotel or accommodation you are staying at. 

Travellers are advised to check what their insurance covers before taking out a policy to avoid being left out of pocket if they have to pay for new flights or an extended stay because they are isolating. 

If you test positive, you are also advised to steer clear of those in risk groups. 

Self-isolation advice applies regardless of vaccination status or previous infection. 

What else should I know? 

If your symptoms get worse, the best course of practice would be to contact a standard GP.

You can also contact the out-of-hours urgent care number on 116 117. This will put you through to the nearest urgent care centre to you. Visitors can also call for an ambulance on 113, but this is only advisable in life-threatening situations, such as a stroke or cardiac arrest.

In addition to checking your insurance policy, you also will need to check the rules of the country you are returning to or travelling through in case you may need a test to enter. 

If you have an EHIC card and receive medical care after testing positive for Covid-19, you will only be required to pay the same subsidised fees Norwegians do for healthcare. Despite this, European citizens are also advised to take out travel insurance. 

Non-European visitors are entitled to urgent medical care but will need to pay the full cost with no prospect of reimbursement if they don’t have health insurance. 

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