Sweden speeds up third vaccine dose for over-65s

The Swedish Public Health Agency has announced new recommendations that third vaccine doses for over-65s may now be given after five months – one month earlier than previously recommended.

vaccine being administered
Over-65s no longer need to wait as long between vaccine doses. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The reason for this change is to enable more over-65s to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

The Public Health Agency expects that infection levels will increase over the next few months, leading the agency to shorten the recommended interval between doses so that as many as possible will have increased protection against Covid-19 in the upcoming winter season.

“We can see an increased spread of infection in many countries in Europe, and following our scenarios, we can count on there being an increase in Sweden as well. With a shorter interval between dose two and the extra dose, more will be able to be vaccinated as soon as possible, and have good protection against the disease before the Christmas holiday,” said Anders Tegnell, state epidemiologist, in a statement.

Currently, extra doses of the vaccine are recommended for all over-65s, as well as some people working in elderly care and at-home care.

Sweden expects to roll out booster shots to everyone eventually, but it will happen in steps in winter and spring.

The new recommended shorter interval between doses only applies to over-65s – all others offered a third dose must still wait six months before they can be vaccinated.

It is ultimately Sweden’s 21 regions that decide when to open the third round of vaccinations to their residents. To find out how to get your third dose in your region, go to the healthcare website and select your region under välj region in the menu bar.

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Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.”