Sweden has pushed forward its COVID-19 vaccination target by three weeks, the government said on Friday, as the decision to not use Johnson & Johnson vaccine meant supplies were insufficient to offer all adults a first shot by mid-August.
Sweden has told the European Union it will not have any need of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Health Authority has said it will not recommend the vaccine for people under 65 because of reports of rare but serious side effects while Sweden already had enough shipments from other producers for people over 65.
“All adults will be offered at least one dose vaccine by September 5, not August 15,” Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren said on Friday.
Around 30% of adult Swedes have now received at least one dose and the vaccination roll-out has been credited for deaths having been among the lowest per capita in Europe in recent months, despite soaring infections rates.
With the spread of the virus still high and the healthcare system under severe pressure, Hallengren urged Swedes to follow the voluntary guidelines.
“The spread must come down now,” she told a news conference.
Unlike most European countries, Sweden has spurned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, relying on mostly voluntary recommendations about social distancing and targeted restrictions on venues such as shopping malls and restaurants.
Sweden’s death toll per capita through the course of the pandemic is many times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours, which periodically imposed more draconian measures, but lower than in most European countries that opted for lockdowns.
Photo: Nursing staff prepare the desks for a day of mass vaccination against Covid-19 in the Blue Hall of the Stockholm City Hall, the venue for the Nobel Prize banquets, in Stockholm, Sweden. EPA-EFE/Jonas Ekströmer