Sweden postpones its Covid-19 vaccine target again

Sweden has pushed back the date by which it expects to have offered all adults a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, for the fourth time since its first vaccine forecast.

Sweden postpones its Covid-19 vaccine target again
Sweden has pushed back its vaccine target several times this year due to reduced deliveries from vaccine manufacturers. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Back in December at the start of the vaccination programme, Sweden’s Health Minister said the country expected to have offered all eligible adults the Covid-19 vaccine before Midsummer, June 26th.

Ahead of Midsummer weekend, Sweden has offered a first dose to slightly over half the adult population after delays in vaccine deliveries, and now expects all adults will have been offered their first dose by September 19th at the latest. The announcement was made by Marie Morell, head of healthcare for Sweden’s Municipalities and Regions (SKR), at a press conference with state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.

The main reason for the latest change is reduced deliveries from Pfizer/Biontech, which sent more doses than expected in June but are now scaling back the amount they can deliver in line with their agreement.

Up until June 24th, a total of 4,507,250 people had been reported as having at least one dose of the vaccine, based on what regions have reported to the national vaccine register. That equates to 55 percent of the adult population, of whom 2,721,752 (33.2 percent) have received both doses.

All the vaccines being used in Sweden require two doses to be considered effective. 

The vaccine rollout is managed at the regional level, which means different age groups are being offered the vaccine in different regions, though all have now opened up to Phase 4, which includes adults aged under 65 who do not belong to a Covid-19 risk group. As of Monday, one region (Norrbotten) was offering the Covid-19 vaccine to all adults over 18, while elsewhere the threshold ranged from 25 to 45 years. 

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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.”