Saturday November 28, 2020
Follow the swine flu vaccination
Sweden distrust corona vaccines
The corona vaccines developed in a very short time give hope that the pandemic will end. In the case of Meissa Chebbi, however, the success report from pharmaceutical researchers arouses the worst fears. The Swede was immunized once before with a substance that had just been approved – ten years ago against swine flu. With devastating consequences: The 21-year-old from Örebro has since suffered from narcolepsy, the incurable sleeping sickness.
Chebbi is only one of hundreds of Swedes who have had this side effect. The skepticism about the new corona vaccines is therefore particularly great in Sweden. “I cannot recommend the vaccination – unless the circumstances are really life-threatening,” says Chebbi.
Usually Swedes are not particularly critical of vaccinations. More than 90 percent of children are immunized according to the recommended vaccination schedule. Even when the health authorities called on the population to get vaccinated against swine flu in 2009, more than 60 percent of the people followed the recommendation, more than in any other country in the world.
The vaccine Pandemrix from the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline was administered. Above all, many children and young adults under 30 years of age could not tolerate the injection; they developed narcolepsy, a chronic nervous disease that makes people unable to control waking and sleeping.
Compensation for side effects
“I have constant sleep attacks, even in the most inopportune moments: while eating, at an interview, at lectures at the university,” says Chebbi from the city of Örebro. “Narcolepsy destroyed my life.” The Swedish pharmaceutical insurance has so far recognized 440 of the 702 reported cases of narcolepsy as a result of the Pandemrix vaccination and paid a total of 100 million kroner (9.8 million euros) in compensation.
All vaccinations can have side effects, but are rarely as serious as a chronic illness. Anders Tegnell, chief epidemiologist and face of the Swedish special route in the corona pandemic, was one of the experts who advised the vaccination campaign against swine flu in 2009/2010. “Of course we would have made a completely different decision if we had known about the side effects,” says Tegnell today. “But they were completely unknown and a surprise for all of us.”
The serious consequences of the vaccination campaign have remained in the Swedes’ minds to this day. According to a survey by the opinion research institute Novus, 26 percent do not want to be vaccinated against the coronavirus at all, mainly for fear of unknown side effects. 28 percent are undecided.
Vaccination registry for side effects
Babis Stefanides is one of the skeptics. “I don’t plan to get vaccinated,” says the 36-year-old from Stockholm. “There are just too many unanswered questions.” Epidemiologist Tegnell understands the concerns. “When you have a new vaccine that we don’t know much about, for a disease that we don’t know much about, everyone wants more information before they make a decision,” he says.
Hannah Laine also fears side effects, but still wants to have herself and her three children vaccinated. “We have to take responsibility for the old and sick,” the social worker from Stockholm explains her decision.
In order to be able to quickly identify any side effects of a corona vaccine, a vaccination register is to be set up in Sweden. At least 60 percent of the population must be vaccinated to stop the virus from spreading, according to health officials. Meissa Chebbi still wants to wait and see: “I will only be vaccinated after about five years, when we know the risks involved.”