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Norway to provide COVID-19 vaccine free of charge to Norwegians

OSLO, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Norway will provide a vaccine against COVID-19 free of charge to its citizens when one becomes available, the government said on Tuesday, and this would become part of the country’s national vaccination programme.

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.

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. Participants include about 76 wealthy, self-financing countries.

COVAX is co-led by the WHO, the GAVI vaccines alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). Norway is a major donor to both GAVI and CEPI, with the latter’s headquarters based in Oslo.

COVAX is designed to discourage national governments from hoarding COVID-19 vaccines and to focus on first vaccinating the most high-risk people in every country. (Reporting by Gwladys Fouche, editing by Jane Merriman)

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