Swedish military ready to battle swine flu

Sweden’s military is well-equipped to defend itself against an outbreak of the A/H1N1 flu virus, and to assist in swine flu vaccination programmes run by public health authorities.

Back in July, Sweden’s Armed Forces started planning to address the threat posed to its 17,000 employees by a possible swine flu pandemic.

“Every unit has taken an inventory and set its priorities,” said Colonel Claes Meijer, the head of the military medical division, to the TT news agency.

But information about exactly how the military has set priorities for key personnel hasn’t been released. If, for example, a Gripen fighter pilot would be vaccinated before a computer technician, remains secret.

The goal is to ensure that no vital operational activities be compromised in the event of a widespread swine flu outbreak.

But groups with higher medical risks have been prioritized.

“Obviously, we’re following the guidelines set out by the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) and that means that people suffering from cardiovascular disease, those with immunological illnesses, and those who are pregnant will get the vaccine first, together with healthcare workers,” said Meijer.

When the vaccine becomes available, the Swedish Armed Forces will vaccinate its own personnel and conscripts rather than use the resources of Sweden’s county councils, which are charged with managing vaccination programmes for the general public.

It’s also possible that the military may be able to help the councils with the vaccination of civilians.

“We haven’t done any calculations on that yet, but if we received a request we would consider it. There may be possibilities in certain locations,” said Meijer.

If many people within the Armed Forces nevertheless become ill at the same time, the operational commander – Lieutenant General Anders Lindström – has carried out a prioritization on how the military will continue to complete its operations.

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