Annika Linde, the state epidemiologist at the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control, was one of the most public faces of the push to get Swedes vaccinated during the swine flu epidemic – over 6 million Swedes got the vaccine.
She says one reason Swedes are less positive to getting a flu vaccine today is because there is no severe risk of influenza right now. But she admits, “It certainly also has an affect that people are scared of side effects of the influenza vaccine,” she says.
The Medical Products Agency confirmed in June that there was a clear link between the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix, which was used throughout Europe, and an increased risk of getting narcolepsy. The risk for those vaccinated against swine flu with Pandemrix was nearly seven times higher than those who did not receive the vaccine.
But despite the negative side effects, Linde also wants to talk about the positive effects of the vaccination campaign in 2009. She says lives were saved in Sweden. “You have two things to weigh, the side effects and lives saved,” she says. “We’re absolutely certain that for the season 2010/11 that we got a tremendous effect from the vaccination campaign a year earlier.”
According to the Sifo poll that Swedish Television commissioned, in 2009, around half of the people asked were positive to getting vaccinated against the swine flu. Now, just over a third say they would vaccinate against the influenza if there were an epidemic today.
Linde says the agency needs to work hard to make people trust the flu vaccine again. “We must ensure that we really find the best way to give vaccines and that we try hard to understand both the benefits and the side effects of the vaccine so that we can be prepared and make something better in the future,” she says.