Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell gets Astra Zeneca vaccine

Sweden's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell gets Astra Zeneca vaccine
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell at one of the Public Health Agency's many coronavirus press conferences in the past year. Photo: Amir Nabizadeh/TT
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who became the face of Sweden’s coronavirus strategy last year, has been vaccinated against Covid-19 with Astra Zeneca’s jab.

Tegnell received his first dose of the vaccine at a Covid-19 vaccination hub set up at the Saab Arena in the city of Linköping on Friday, reports regional newspaper Corren.

Sweden currently only recommends the Astra Zeneca vaccine for over-65s, following reports of extremely rare blood clots. Tegnell, who turned 65 last week, told Corren he wanted “to send an important signal that Astra is a great vaccine for people over 65”.

He said he had not had any serious side effects, only mild fever.

Tegnell’s jab comes amid reports that some people are refusing the Astra Zeneca vaccine, leading to some doses being thrown away. People in Sweden do not have the option of choosing their vaccine, but are told before it is administered which vaccine is being used.

Sweden’s Public Health Agency and government have stressed that the risks of the vaccine are far outweighed by its benefits, in line with advice from the World Health Organisation and European Medicines Agency to continue using the Astra Zeneca vaccine as a safe and effective way to prevent serious illness from Covid-19.

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Millions of doses have been administered around the world, and small numbers of people have developed deadly blood clots in combination with low levels of platelets, most of them women under 60 within two weeks of vaccination.

However, a decision to pause the rollout of the vaccine has weakened confidence, and Tegnell said he was concerned about reports of vaccine refusals, although the number is still relatively small. Sweden is generally considered to have a high level of vaccine acceptance.

“I asked the staff when I was vaccinated whether it is common that people say no, and they said it happens now and then.”

Asked by Corren how it felt to get the first dose of vaccine after more than a year of working with the pandemic, he said: “I don’t know if it feels like a major difference for me personally. But the fact that vaccinations have come so far feels like a big step for society.”

A total of 1,667,542 people had received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by April 16th, and 649,361 had received two doses. That corresponds to 20.4 and 7.9 percent, respectively, of Sweden’s adult population.

Sweden currently plans to have offered the first dose of a vaccine to all adults by August 15th, a target that was pushed back from June earlier this month due to supply shortages.

Most regions of Sweden have completed or nearly completed Phase 1 and are offering vaccination to people in Phase 2. That includes people aged over 65.

Some regions have opened up vaccination to people in Phase 3, beginning with people aged 60-64. That includes the region of Östergötland, where Tegnell lives.

Sweden’s EU Minister Hans Dahlgren, who is 73 years old, earlier this month became the first member of the Swedish government to be vaccinated against Covid-19 after his home county of Stockholm opened vaccinations for over-70s.

King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia received their first doses in January on the advice of the King’s physician, ahead of schedule.


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