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
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.

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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