Sweden recommends Covid-19 vaccination for over-16s

The Swedish Public Health Agency will recommend vaccinating those aged 16 and above against Covid-19, said the Director General Johan Carlson on Tuesday.

Sweden recommends Covid-19 vaccination for over-16s
An adolescent receives the vaccine against Covid-19. Photo: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

The main reasons behind this decision were that a vaccination protects young people, lowers the risk of outbreaks, and will lower the infection rate overall, according to Carlson. 

The use of the Pfizer jab in children from the age of 12 was also approved, but only if there are special conditions such as belonging to a risk group. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the use of BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine for this age group on May 28th. 

Carlson said that the vaccination of under-18s is a step in the general vaccination plan and to protect the children who might fall ill, and said the decision is not related to the opening of schools. 

There are currently no plans to vaccinate those younger than this, a departure from the plans of several other countries. As of June 7th, anyone over the age of 12 has been able to get vaccinated in Germany, while the US approved vaccination of those aged 12 and above in May. 

Both Denmark and Norway show similar hesitation to offering the vaccine to adolescents. In Denmark, it is offered to those aged 16 or above, and in Norway it remains 18, but 12 in case they belong to a risk group. 

The reason given by the Public Health Agency for only recommending the vaccine for over-16s in Sweden decision is that the advantage of vaccinating children is not deemed great enough since they do not typically fall severely ill from Covid-19 and the data available to the agency does not show that they play a large role in infecting others. 

Over the course of the pandemic so far in Sweden, about 150 people aged 16 or 17 have required hospital care due to Covid-19.

People who fall into the eligible age group or have children who do will need to keep updated on where their region is up to in the vaccine rollout, since the programme is being managed at the regional level and it depends on availability of vaccines. 

According to the Public Health Agency, vaccination of 16-18-year olds will begin once the vaccine has been offered to all eligible adults over the age of 18, which is expected to be “sometime in August”.

If the child is part of a Covid-19 risk group, the vaccine might be available sooner than for others in that age group; the best way to find out what applies is by contacting your primary care doctor. 

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”