Regional differences in pollen-vaccination rates

3:56 min

Swedes suffering from pollen allergies are seeking treatment at health clinics across Sweden, but there are major regional variations in the vaccine-prescription rate.

Alder and hazel trees are already in bloom in southern Sweden and in three weeks’ time birch trees are set to start flowering, too. According to pollen experts, the pollen rates will be significantly higher this year compared to last year, though they will not reach the extremely high levels noted in 2014.

Nevertheless, spring is a difficult time of the year for those with pollen allergies. They experience symptoms like runny noses and itchy eyes and some also get wheezy and have asthmatic symptoms.

According to Ulla Kronander, head of the Swedish Association for Allergology between 25 and 30 percent of adults in Sweden are allergic to pollen. Most can treat their symptoms with over-the-counter drugs and some need special prescription drugs. However, in 5 to 10 percent of the cases, an allergy vaccine would work best, claims Ulla Kronander.

"It’s the only way that the patient could tolerate more pollen,” Kronander tells Radio Sweden. “Often they have to continue taking medicine, but they feel better and can use less medicine than before taking the vaccination."

However, there are significant regional differences when it comes to accessing the vaccine. In the Halland region in south-western Sweden, 40 in 10,000 get access to the vaccine, while in Norrbotten in the north, the figure is eight. On the Baltic island of Gotland, the rate is 25 per 10,000.

"There’s a great lack of specialists in Sweden, especially in the northern part of the country. There’s also a lack of awareness of this opportunity to cure allergy in Swedish society and within primary care," says Kronander.

Part of the problem is that taking the vaccine is quite a long process. The would-be patient has to take the shot at a health clinic once a week for the first eight to 15 weeks, and then once a month for up to three years.

In the Norrbotten region in northern Sweden, there is only one big hospital, which means many patients have to travel long distances.

Research is being carried out into how to make it easier to distribute the vaccine but those interested in taking the vaccine have to wait until next year since you have to start taking the shots in the autumn.