Swine Flu Vaccine Delayed
With the majority of Swedes now back from their holidays and the children returned to school, most believe it is only a matter of time before the country is hit by an outbreak of Swine Flu A/H1N1.
In preparation, the antibacterial gels and wipes are selling out in pharmacies, workplaces are putting together contingency plans and the county councils are trying to finalise plans for the coming vaccinations. But no one knows when and how Sweden will be hit by the flu – and the chances of an outbreak prior to the vaccine arriving is very probable.
Despite hopes that vaccinations against Swine Flu would start here next month, it was announced Thursday that deliveries were to be delayed. This means that instead of the promised 300,000 doses a week there will be significantly fewer delivered during the first two weeks.
And the prioritised groups - such as those with life threatening diseases and pregnant women - will be given the required two shots within the first few weeks.
Peter Rönnerfalk, who is in charge of the efforts against Swine Flu in Stockholm, told Swedish Newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that the rest of the population will have to wait. Stockholmers will have to wait until November or even December before they can be vaccinated, he says.
"And as we don't know when it will climax", he told SvD, "It is a race against time".
But Peter Rönnerfalk also says that the outbreak might already have started, as many people won't get more symptoms than during a mild bout of seasonal flu. So far this seems not to be the case, but Rönnerfalk says he'd be surprised if that hasn't changed by next Monday.
In the UK the climax of the first wave of infections has been reached and the number of reported cases every week is falling. Looking at the British development Rönnerfalk thinks that Sweden can expect a time span of 6-8 weeks from the beginning of the pandemic to when it will start to level off. And this would mean that if the outbreak occurred in the next few weeks, Sweden will be near the end of the epidemic by the time the majority could be vaccinated.
But Peter Rönnerfalk still thinks that it is important to get the shots even if you have to wait to the aftermath of the outbreak, as these pandemics tend to hit in a second wave 6 months to a year after.
Recent figures show that about 70 % of the Swedish population is in favour of getting vaccinated. Both a survey carried out by Sifo Research International for Swedish Radio and one by Skop for the National Board of Health and Welfare, indicate that a clear majority will get vaccinated as soon as they get a chance to do so. Meanwhile, most believe that the best way to avoid getting ill is careful hand hygiene.
And some Swedish unions and local councils are trying to achieve a temporary change to the law to encourage people with flu symptoms to stay home. In Sweden, the first day of absence from work is unpaid, and many now want to scrap this rule for the duration of the pandemic, in order to get people to stay at home from the first day they feel ill.