Swedish regions roll out booster shots of Covid-19 vaccine

The first regions in Sweden have begun administering third doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to some risk groups.

Swedish regions roll out booster shots of Covid-19 vaccine
File photo of a nurse administering the Covid-19 vaccine in Sweden. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

More than half of Sweden’s regions have started offering third doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to people with severely lowered immune systems, according to broadcaster TV4 Nyheterna.

These include, among others, Västra Götaland, Örebro, Jämtland/Härjedalen, Jönköping, Kalmar and Västerbotten.

People with certain autoimmune diseases and transplant recipients were first in line after it was shown that a large proportion of this group lack antibodies even after double doses, reported radio broadcaster P4 Göteborg after Gothenburg began its rollout of booster shots.

Everyone who is eligible for a third dose will receive a letter from their doctor.

A third booster shot of the Covid-19 vaccine won’t be offered to the entire general population of Sweden for the time being, but the Public Health Agency has said that the third jab could be rolled out to more groups in 2022, based on the order of priority (which means other risk groups and elderly people would be first in line). This stage of the vaccination programme has not yet been confirmed.

More than 80 percent of people aged over 16 in Sweden have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and more than 70 percent have received their second dose.

Sweden has not yet rolled out the vaccine to 12-15-year-olds, unless they have an underlying health condition such as chronic lung disease or heart failure.

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Covid deaths in Sweden ‘set to rise in coming weeks’

The Public Health Agency of Sweden has warned that the number of weekly Covid deaths is set to rise, after the number of people testing positive for the virus rose for the sixth week running.

Covid deaths in Sweden 'set to rise in coming weeks'

According to the agency, an average of 27 people have died with or from the virus a week over the past three weeks. 

“According to our analyses, the number who died in week 27 (July 4th-July 11th), is more than died in week 26 and we expect this to continue to grow,” the agency wrote in a report issued on Thursday. 

In the week ending July 17th (week 28), 4,700 new cases of Covid-19 were registered, a 22 percent rise on the previous week. 

“We are seeing rising infection levels of Covid-19 which means that there will be more people admitted to hospital, and even more who die with Covid-19,”  said Anneli Carlander, a unit chief at the agency. “The levels we are seeing now are higher than they were last summer, but we haven’t reached the same level we saw last winter when omicron was spreading for the first time.” 

While 27 deaths a week with for from Covid-19 is a rise on the low levels seen this spring, it is well below the peak death rate Sweden saw in April 2020, when more than 100 people were dying a day. 

The number of Covid deaths recorded each week this summer. Source. Public Health Agency of Sweden
A graph of Covid deaths per day since the start of the pandemic shows that the current death rate, while alarming, remains low. Photo: Public Health Agency of Sweden

Carlander said that cases were rising among those in sheltered accommodation for the elderly, and also elderly people given support in their own homes, groups which are recommended to get tested for the virus if they display symptoms. The infection rate among those given support in their homes has risen 40 percent on last week. 

This week there were also 12 new patients admitted to intensive care units with Covid-19 in Sweden’s hospitals.  

The increase has come due to the new BA.5 variant of omicron, which is better able to infect people who have been vaccinated or already fallen ill with Covid-19. Vaccination or a past infection does, however, give protection against serious illness and death.