Here’s what we know about Sweden’s plans for the Covid-19 vaccine

Vaccines for the new coronavirus could be available in Sweden early next year, but people will need to be prepared to live with the virus for years to come.

Here's what we know about Sweden's plans for the Covid-19 vaccine
Vaccine coordinator Richard Bergström (L), Health Minister Lena Hallengren and Public Health Agency head Johan Carlson. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The vaccinations could begin as early as the first quarter of 2021, Sweden's vaccine coordinator Richard Bergström said on Monday.

Sweden has signed a deal to buy millions of doses of Astra Zeneca's vaccine for next year, and has deals in the works for six other vaccines. At the moment no vaccine is ready to be used by the general public and it's unknown which vaccine will be ready first, how effective each one will be, and how many doses would be needed per person.

“We have bought more than we need, but that's a good problem to have. We will be able to sell to other countries,” Bergström said.

Which groups are prioritised in the vaccine would depend on the type of any vaccine, and how and when it can be carried out in Sweden.

“But those who will be prioritised are people aged over 70 and others with underlying symptoms. Staff in the medical and care sectors will also be included,” the Public Health Agency's general director Johan Carlson said.

“Our assessment is that children do not need the vaccine in the first instance – that goes for healthy children without underlying illnesses. Quite simply, it's about creating protection around the people who have extra need of protection.”

It's still unclear exactly how this would work – for example, what proof people in risk groups may need to show, or how long individuals may have to wait for their vaccine.

Carlson noted: “A vaccine alone cannot stop a pandemic. My message is very clear that the preventative measures we have must remain.”

“I think we should reckon with several years where we have to deal with this. It doesn't have to mean very restrictive measures, but it is wrong to thing that this will be gone next summer because we will have a vaccine then.” 

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Covid deaths in Sweden ‘set to rise in coming weeks’

The Public Health Agency of Sweden has warned that the number of weekly Covid deaths is set to rise, after the number of people testing positive for the virus rose for the sixth week running.

Covid deaths in Sweden 'set to rise in coming weeks'

According to the agency, an average of 27 people have died with or from the virus a week over the past three weeks. 

“According to our analyses, the number who died in week 27 (July 4th-July 11th), is more than died in week 26 and we expect this to continue to grow,” the agency wrote in a report issued on Thursday. 

In the week ending July 17th (week 28), 4,700 new cases of Covid-19 were registered, a 22 percent rise on the previous week. 

“We are seeing rising infection levels of Covid-19 which means that there will be more people admitted to hospital, and even more who die with Covid-19,”  said Anneli Carlander, a unit chief at the agency. “The levels we are seeing now are higher than they were last summer, but we haven’t reached the same level we saw last winter when omicron was spreading for the first time.” 

While 27 deaths a week with for from Covid-19 is a rise on the low levels seen this spring, it is well below the peak death rate Sweden saw in April 2020, when more than 100 people were dying a day. 

The number of Covid deaths recorded each week this summer. Source. Public Health Agency of Sweden
A graph of Covid deaths per day since the start of the pandemic shows that the current death rate, while alarming, remains low. Photo: Public Health Agency of Sweden

Carlander said that cases were rising among those in sheltered accommodation for the elderly, and also elderly people given support in their own homes, groups which are recommended to get tested for the virus if they display symptoms. The infection rate among those given support in their homes has risen 40 percent on last week. 

This week there were also 12 new patients admitted to intensive care units with Covid-19 in Sweden’s hospitals.  

The increase has come due to the new BA.5 variant of omicron, which is better able to infect people who have been vaccinated or already fallen ill with Covid-19. Vaccination or a past infection does, however, give protection against serious illness and death.