In Iceland, 96% of women and 90% of men aged 16 or older have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Its vaccination rate, one of the highest in the world, makes it a particularly interesting place to study the incidence and severity of breakthrough infections.
The Covid-19 vaccines were administered for the first time in Iceland at the end of 2020; in mid-July, every resident over the age of 16 was offered an injection. Yet tests show that an alarming number of national Covid-19 infections still occur with the onset of the delta variant.
In the United States, where vaccination rates are lower, authorities have described the continued spread of the virus as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” But given the uneven number of people vaccinated compared to those unvaccinated in Iceland, the island nation is currently seeing more cases of Covid-19 among the vaccinated than the unvaccinated.
Since the start of the pandemic, 8,738 infections and 30 deaths linked to the coronavirus have been reported in Iceland. The country has been relatively successful in controlling the virus and reported only one death in 2021, on May 25.
That there are hardly any deaths accompanying the increase in the number of cases is a good sign. Data shows that vaccinated people who contract the virus usually recover without serious illness.
Iceland provides a case study on how an effective vaccine deployment may not guarantee herd immunity but prevent hospitalizations and deaths.