Third Covid-19 vaccine dose likely in Sweden from next year

A large proportion of Sweden's population will likely be offered a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot in 2022, the Public Health Agency has said.

Third Covid-19 vaccine dose likely in Sweden from next year
Used vaccine doses at a centre in Sweden; vaccination is currently open to all adults and some teens, with a possible booster shot for risk groups to be offered later this year. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

And for people in risk groups, the third jab may be offered before the end of this year. That would primarily include residents of care homes for the elderly, other over-80s, and people with severely reduced immune systems.

“The assessment is that it is not possible to eradicate the virus and therefore vaccination work should be long-term and focused on reducing serious illness and death. It is still important that we have a special focus on vaccination of groups and residents in geographical areas with low vaccination coverage,” said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell in a statement from the agency.

Asked by TT why a third dose was necessary, Tegnell said: “Because the level of protection [from initial doses] goes down. We don’t know how it will look with the variants, so far the vaccines have worked very well against them.”

“We don’t see any signs of people ‘losing’ immunity, but on the other hand there is nothing to suggest these vaccines give life-long immunity. It will be a vaccine that needs to be topped up, the question is just when and whether everyone will need a top-up. It may be that it is enough to target only the elderly, roughly similar to the flu vaccine.”

Sweden is still on track to have offered both of the two initial doses to all adults in Sweden during autumn 2021, and to start rolling out the vaccine to 16-17-year-olds. Around half of all adults (40 percent of the total population) is already fully vaccinated, while 78 percent of all adults (61 percent of the total population) has received at least one dose.

The details of the roll-out of a third dose depend on several criteria including “possible new virus variants and on what research will show about the protective effect of vaccines over time”, the agency said.

The Public Health Agency broke its vaccination plan down into four stages. The first, currently under way, is mass vaccination of the adult population. The second stage is targeting groups with a low uptake of the vaccination, and booster doses would be given to high-risk groups at this point. The third stage would be a wider roll-out of a third dose, and the fourth stage is developing a long-term vaccination plan for Covid-19.

In the statement, the agency did not say whether the vaccine will be offered to younger children in Sweden. Currently it is only approved for over-16s, or over-12s if they have a risk factor, while several other countries such as Austria, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland have already begun offering the jab to all children aged over 12. 

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When will the new Covid-19 vaccines be available in Sweden?

The European Commission has recently approved three new Covid-19 vaccines, targeting both the original virus and the dominating Omicron variants. When are these expected to be available in Sweden?

When will the new Covid-19 vaccines be available in Sweden?

The first vaccines, approved on September 1st, are the Comirnaty Original/Omicron BA.1 and Spikevax bivalent Original/Omicron BA.1. These are booster vaccines which will be available for those aged 12 and above who have completed one course of the vaccine against Covid-19.

These two vaccines are designed to target the original strain of the virus, SARS-CoV-2, as well as the Omicron BA.1 subvariant.

Deliveries of this vaccine have recently started to arrive in Sweden, although it may take a few weeks before doses have been distributed to each of Sweden’s regions.

The third vaccine, approved on September 12th, is an adapted version of the mRNA Covid-19 vaccine Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech), designed to target the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 in addition to the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. These are the two variants which have dominated Covid-19 infections in Sweden this summer.

“The vaccine contains half the original vaccine and half of a vaccine for the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5,” vaccine coordinator Charlotta Bergquist at the Swedish Medical Products Agency told TT newswire.

This vaccine is also a booster vaccine, available to those aged 12 and above who have already completed one full course of Covid-19 vaccination.

The Public Health Agency expect delivery of this second vaccine to commence in October.

You don’t need to wait for the new vaccine

From September 1st, those with an increased risk of severe illness due to Covid-19, as well as pregnant women and those over the age of 65 have been eligible for booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in preparation for the autumn and winter season.

However, the Public Health Agency does not recommend that those who are currently eligible for a booster dose wait until the new vaccines have been delivered, rather that they should take their booster dose with the current vaccine as planned.

“People don’t need to wait for the updated vaccines,” Sören Andersson, head of department at the Public Health Agency said.

“We deem them to be equal when it comes to protection against serious illness and death,” he continued.