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Iceland: Did vaccination reduce COVID-19 deaths at all?



Iceland‘s Minister of Healthcare receives first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines December 2020.

By the end of May 2022, COVID-19 deaths in Iceland were 153 in total. Based on figures from the Directorate of Health, published by the online daily Fréttin, 119 people died up to February 2022. Thirteen of those were double-vaccinated, 67 triple-vaccinated and 39 were unvaccinated. The Directorate of Health has refused to disclose the vaccination status of the 34 who have died since then.

As vaccination started on December 29th 2020, it must be assumed that the 31 who died in 2020 were all unvaccinated. This means after vaccination started and until the end of January 2022, we have eight deaths among the unvaccinated and 80 among the vaccinated, i.e., 9% unvaccinated and 91% vaccinated. As approximately 90% of adults have now been vaccinated, those figures by themselves do not suggest the vaccines have had any effect to reduce the probability of death. Age-adjusted and time-based figures on deaths and vaccinations might however improve the picture for the vaccinated if those were being disclosed. Or maybe they wouldn’t, which is the reason they are not being disclosed.

© Directorate of Health/Fréttin
Covid deaths in Iceland up to February 2022.

Comparison of the case fatality rate in 2020 versus 2021 seems to indicate the picture may be less bleak than the raw data suggest. In 2020, the case fatality rate was 0.74% but in 2021 it was 0.36%. The vaccinations may explain explain part of this difference, though many of the 2021 cases occurred towards the end of the year, when the much less lethal Omicron variant had taken over. Improved treatment over time may also explain a falling mortality rate. It also remains unclear what proportion of the deaths are ‘with’ as opposed to ‘from’ COVID-19 and how that may have changed over time. Lastly, the extent to which we can rely on the official figures is uncertain, given the sudden and unexplained changes we have witnessed before and the reluctance to disclose data to journalists, of which I have repeatedly seen first-hand evidence.

Based on the available data, and taking into account the change in the CFR, it may thus be concluded that in Iceland, the protection provided by vaccination against death from COVID-19 is somewhere in the range of 0-50% (as the CFR has reduced by 50%). At the same time, we see a huge surge in vaccine-related adverse effects and deaths and an unprecedented jump in excess mortality already evident this year, not only in Iceland, but around the world. It can hardly be denied that the high hopes most of us had for the vaccines at the start of last year were not well founded, to say the least.


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