Proposal to reverse vaccination age order
deCODE genetics has released results of research suggesting that herd immunity could be achieved faster by vaccinating younger people before older people. Elderly and vulnerable people have already been vaccinated and the country is now vaccinating members of the public in their 60s and late 50s.
The researchers say Iceland should consider switching emphasis to young people aged 16 and over, or completely randomising the age selection process. Changing tack now could lead to herd immunity with as little as 55 percent vaccination instead of 70-75 percent, they say. The results were presented to government ministers and the chief epidemiologist yesterday and call for caution in removing restrictions before herd immunity is achieved.
“I am stating that the organisation [of vaccination] was built on the knowledge at hand within the health ministry and now we have given them a new model to work from and I am very sure they will take note," Kári Stefansson, founder and CEO of deCODE genetics, said after the presentation. "To not do so would be unwise.”
Chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason was openminded: "The research result is very credible, I feel, and could be helpful going forward.” But he noted challenges, including that the AstraZeneca vaccine is not approved for use on younger people in Iceland. “Whether the approach will change to vaccinating either randomly or otherwise will have to come to light. It’s also necessary to look at how to organise it, what the provision of vaccines looks like, because we don’t have vaccine for everybody as it stands now.”
“Based on the third wave [of COVID-19 infection this autumn and winter], we would have needed to have 70 percent of adults vaccinated in order to be able to rely on immunity from vaccination to stop it,” Páll Melsteð, professor of data sciences, says. “When we look at starting to relax assembly limits, in the first instance it is with something like 70 percent that we can start relaxing the restrictions that were in effect in the third wave. It would basically be necessary to finish vaccinating in order to raise the assembly limit to one thousand.”