Reader views: Would you get a vaccine pass if Sweden introduced one?

Almost two thirds of The Local's readers said they approved of the idea of a vaccine pass being introduced in Sweden. But a slightly larger proportion told us they would get the pass regardless.

Reader views: Would you get a vaccine pass if Sweden introduced one?
People line up for Covid-19 tests on arrival at Stockholm's Arlanda airport. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

More than 200 readers responded within 24 hours when we asked how you felt about a vaccine pass.

Of those who replied, 63 percent said the concept was a good idea, while 37 percent said it was not. 

Exactly how a vaccine pass or passport would work is not yet clear, but there are two proposals to be aware of.

Sweden has said that it aims to have a digital vaccine pass – proof of whether the holder has received a vaccine against Covid-19 – in place by June. This would primarily be used for travel overseas. It is already the case that everyone who receives a vaccine in Sweden has the right to get a certificate from the vaccine provider, including for the Covid-19 vaccine, but the change would be the digitalisation of this and the standardisation at the national level.

Separately, the European Commission has laid out plans for an EU-wide vaccine pass, which would include both proof of vaccination as well as recent Covid-19 test results for those not yet vaccinated, also primarily aimed at travel. 

The latter option would alleviate one of the concerns mentioned by several readers, specifically that a vaccine pass would be unfair or even discriminatory to those who had not yet been offered a vaccine or are unable to have it, for example due to allergies.

“It seems very unfair on the younger people who aren’t a priority for the vaccine. Younger people in Europe have paused their lives for a year to protect elderly people and again it looks like they’re left behind,” said reader Charlie.

Another reader, Emily, said she would not be comfortable even if negative test results were also included, since non-vaccinated people would need to pay repeatedly for tests. 

The vaccine pass would be optional in Sweden. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT 

But several readers told us that a vaccine pass would be a step towards incentivising the vaccine, making society safer for vulnerable groups unable to be vaccinated.

Many readers said they would happily sign up for a vaccine pass in order to travel and, in particular, be reunited with family overseas. 

“People seem to focus on ‘holidays’ but some of us just want to see our closed loved ones, such as partners or kids. It has been devastating not knowing when it will be the next time I will see my boyfriend,” said one reader who asked to remain anonymous.

Some said they would welcome the vaccine pass as an alternative to having to take a PCR test within a certain time window – which can make long-distance travel complicated or impossible – and without having to quarantine on arrival.

“Anything that lets me travel,” said Deborah, who had not been able to see her family in the UK for the past year. “My daughter has cancelled her wedding because my husband and her half-brother would not be able to go as they are Swedish and I am English.”

“It would be great to know fellow travellers are also vaccinated,” said Pat. “I just want to see my two sons soon as possible. I’ve not seen them since July last year so I think the vaccine is the way forward.”

Reader Suzana pointed out that certain vaccinations are already required for entry to some countries: “I used to carry a vaccine passport for yellow fever, bubonic plague and a few others. Why not for coronavirus?”

Another reader suggested that the vaccine pass should be expanded to show different kinds of vaccinations needed for travel, such as those against malaria or yellow fever.

One concern raised by readers was the potential for invasion of privacy or pressure to have the vaccine. The Covid-19 vaccination is optional in Sweden, although everyone who is eligible is urged to get it, and if a vaccine pass is introduced it may be harder to travel without the vaccine, without being subject to the restrictions currently in place such as taking a test beforehand or isolating on arrival.

Some expressed concerns about the efficacy of the vaccine, one referencing a Swine flu vaccine that caused side effects of narcolepsy in hundreds of children and young adults in Sweden.

All vaccines can cause some side effects in some people, but serious side effects like the narcolepsy cases are rare. Sweden is using a register to detect and track any side effects from the new Covid-19 vaccines. The UK operates a similar scheme and, after administering millions of jabs since early December, has found a very low rate of side effects and no deaths caused by the vaccine.

Another issue raised by readers was whether being vaccinated actually stops people from catching and passing on the coronavirus, as well as whether it protected against mutated versions of the virus.

“Only if there is overwhelming evidence from scientific studies that vaccinated people cannot transfer the virus to others,” said Narendar.

“We still do not know how much immunity the vaccine(s) offer and for how long, so it is a long shot,” said reader Sujit, who said she would not get the pass.

Thomas expressed concern that people who had received the vaccine may “have a false sense of security and likely disregard absolutely all safety measures put in place to reduce spread”.

At the moment, available studies suggest that the vaccines reduce transmission of Covid-19, but measuring this is difficult and conclusive evidence is not yet available

A few readers described the vaccine as unsafe or experimental, with some even citing widely debunked conspiracy theories that the coronavirus is no more dangerous than the flu or that the virus or vaccine were created to control populations. 

All the vaccines being used in Sweden have been approved at the EU level, and although they have been developed in record time, they have gone through all the usual stages of testing.

“While I believe everyone has the right to choose whether or not they want to be vaccinated, I feel that choosing not to be should not be without consequence,” responded Nadia. “If you have access to balanced, factual information and do not have an identity with a history of medical mistreatment, and still opt not to be vaccinated, then I feel you should be prepared to adapt to the ramifications of your decision, which includes the harm you might cause by travelling abroad.”

Some readers said they would sign up for a vaccine pass if offered, even if they did not support the idea, with 70 percent of total respondents saying they would get one.

“I would probably have a hard time with travelling if I didn’t, so if it comes into effect I would have to sign up for it even though I do not support the policy,” said one anonymous reader who thought the pass could be used to discriminate against certain groups.

This article is based on a non-scientific survey of The Local’s readers, where we asked “Do you think a Covid-19 ‘immunity card’ is a good idea?”, “If Sweden adopted an immunity card, would you sign up?” and asked readers to explain their answer. Thanks to all those who took part; we received over 200 responses and included a representative sample here. You can see the responses from readers of The Local’s sister sites around Europe below:

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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.