Sweden announces changes to Covid-19 vaccine priority list

Sweden announces changes to Covid-19 vaccine priority list
Vaccinations under way in Stockholm at the City Hall. Photo: Gustaf Månsson/SvD/TT
Everyone in Sweden aged over 65 will be included in the next priority group for the Covid-19 vaccine, the government announced on Thursday, along with other changes to vaccine prioritisation.

Health and Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren said that Sweden's regions were preparing for an increase in vaccine deliveries from next week, particularly following the EU's approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

She said that efforts were under way to ensure that as many people as possible received the vaccine, saying: “We are working towards a high level of vaccination coverage, and equal vaccination coverage.”

The Public Health Agency's general director Johan Carlson said that Sweden expects more than a million vaccine doses to be delivered monthly during February and March. More than a quarter of a million people in Sweden have received at least one dose of the vaccine against Covid-19.

“In every phase, older people will be prioritised, and those who have a greater risk [of serious illness from Covid-19] come before those who have a lower risk,” said Carlson.

“In every phase, those who have other risk factors than medicinal ones will also need to be prioritised. You need to take into account socioeconomic factors which are linked to ethnicity, level of education, crowded living conditions, and population density,” he said.

“There is a lot of responsibility on all those involved in vaccination to increase accessibility of vaccines among these groups.”

Exactly what steps are taken to ensure this will depend based on the demographics of different regions.

Some examples will include offering vaccination slots at evenings and weekends, using a variety of communication methods, offering vaccines from mobile teams in socioeconomically vulnerable areas, and making sure it's possible to book a vaccine without needing a Swedish BankID, said Emma Spak, from the healthcare department at SKR, the umbrella association for Sweden's municipalities and regions.

She also said that the goal to offer the vaccine to everyone over the age of 18 (around 8.2 million people) in the first half of 2021 remained in place.

Within each of the phases, people will be prioritised based on age, based on the fact that age is one of the factors most clearly linked to a risk of more serious illness from Covid-19.

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Phase 1:  People who live in elderly care homes or receive at-home care, as well as healthcare and care workers who have close contact with vulnerable people and other adults who share a household with people receiving at-home care.

This is the phase that got under way in December 2020 and remains unchanged.

Phase 2: This phase will now include all adults aged over 65 (previously this number was 70), starting with the oldest. 

People with certain medical conditions have been added to this category, including those on dialysis or recent transplant recipients, and other adults who share a household with them.

People aged 18 and above who receive LSS disability support, and people working in the medical and care sectors who have close contact with patients are also included in this phase.

Phase 3: This phase includes 18-64-year-olds who belong to a risk group, for example people with chronic cardiovascular disease or diabetes, and it now also includes all adults aged 60-64, even those who do not belong to a risk group. 

As well as the groups at high risk of serious illness from Covid-19, this phase will also include people who belong to groups which may have trouble following the national recommendations to reduce the risk of infection. This includes for example people with dementia or Down Syndrome and homeless people.

Phase 4: This phase includes the remaining adult population, aged 18-59, who do not belong to a risk group.

Although vaccination is already under way, Carlson said that the prioritisation order might be changed in future depending on any changes to deliveries of doses, “because vaccine availability is a decisive factor”.

 


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