World News

Norway to provide COVID-19 vaccine free of charge

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway will provide a vaccine against COVID-19 free of charge to its inhabitants when one becomes available, the government said on Tuesday, and this would become part of the country’s national vaccination programme.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

Norway, which is part of the European single market but is not a member of the European Union, said in August it would get access to the vaccines that the EU obtains via deals negotiated with pharmaceuticals companies.

“We want as many people as possible to get the offer of receiving a safe and effective vaccine. This is why vaccination will be free of charge,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in a statement.

Sweden, an EU member and Norway’s neighbour, will buy more of the vaccines than it needs and then sell them on to Norway.

“The EU has so far entered into agreements with three different vaccine manufacturers, and is negotiating agreements with several other manufacturers. Norway is covered by these agreements through resale agreements with Sweden,” the government said in Tuesday’s statement.

The Nordic country has currently the lowest level of new infections in Europe. Its 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants was 34.3 as of Tuesday, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

There are wide disparities within the country though.

Authorities are most concerned with the situation in Oslo, where current restrictions, such as compulsory wearing of face masks in public transport when social distancing cannot be maintained, were extended on Tuesday for an indefinite period.

Norway is also part of COVAX, the global scheme for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines backed by the World Health Organization, joined by 171 nations including China, but shunned by the United States and Russia.

The programme aims to offer equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for rich and poor countries alike.

Reporting by Gwladys Fouche, editing by Jane Merriman and Giles Elgood