Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Svalbard gets vaccine priority

2,000 extra doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is sent to Svalbard as a preventive measure, as local health care to deal with an outbreak is limited.
March 22, 2021

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“A possible infection outbreak on Svalbard will be very demanding to deal with,” said Bent Høie, Norway’s Minister of Health and Care Services.

“The local hospital and community have limited capacity to deal with a major outbreak and there are major challenges with the possibility of transporting a larger number of patients who might need treatment to the mainland,” the minister said.

The population at Svalbard is in general younger and more healthy than for the rest of Norway, and consequently have lower risk of serious Covid-19 disease. However, the consequences in case of possible medial evacuation would put the emergency services beyond capacity.

2,000 doses of Moderna vaccine is on its way to Longyearbyen, according to the regional health agency Helse Nord. At first, everyone above 45 years old will be offered the vaccine, soon to be made available for all adult population on the Arctic archipelago.

In addition to the Norwegian town of Longyearbyen with about 2,400 inhabitants, the Russian mining town of Barentsburg has about 450 inhabitants.

Norway is currently experiencing a third wave of coronavirus infection with 260 patients currently under treatment at hospitals.

Since March 11, the AstraZeneca vaccine has been temporarily suspended following notifications of serious side effects with blood clots, low platelet counts and bleedings. A few deaths are reported and Norway’s Institute of Public Health has begun a thorough investigation into a possible association between the vaccine and the reported possible side effects.

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