Joakim Dillner, Professor in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the country’s Karolinska Institutet medical university, told Sweden’s TT newswire that the pause risked reducing the Swedish population’s normally high acceptance of vaccines.
“Among the older age group, willingness to get vaccinated will probably stay high, because they have so much to gain,” he said.
“It’s more difficult to say for those who are a little younger, those would perhaps only be getting vaccinated out of solidarity. Among them, I expect the willingness to get vaccinated will be lower than what I’d previously expected.”
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Sweden’s vaccine coordinator, Richard Bergström, a pharmacist who started his career at the Swedish Medical Products Agency, before going on to work as a pharmaceuticals industry executive and lobbyist, has cited Swedes’ high willingness to be vaccinated as a reason for optimism.
When it comes to the so-called child vaccination programme, a set of vaccines given to children against 11 diseases, Sweden has a high uptake of 97 percent.
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When vaccination programmes move beyond especially vulnerable groups and health workers and start targeting the general public, he has argued, countries with generally high vaccine acceptance within the population, like Sweden, will have an advantage.
“That’s when countries like Sweden will make progress, because of its high acceptance of vaccines,” he told TT in an earlier interview.
But now the more infectious British variant has become dominant in Sweden, it might take only a small increase in the share of the Swedish population who are unwilling to receive the vaccine to make it difficult to achieve herd immunity.
“Before I thought that it would need 75 percent to be immune, but now we probably need to go up to 85 percent,” Dillner said. “No one really knows exactly, but that’s my guess.”
Dillner also said that he feared that the pause in the vaccination programme risked having such a disruptive effect on logistics, health personnel, and booked vaccination premises, leading to longer than expected delays.
“It’s like starting up an oil tanker. What I’m worried about if this pause in giving AstraZeneca’s vaccine become extended, is that the program might be damaged,” he said.
“In 2013, Japan stopped its vaccination programme against HPV (which causes genital warts), because of a suspected side effect. The case was investigated and no causal link was found, but the programme has never restarted.”