STOCKHOLM, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- The Swedish government intends to start offering coronavirus vaccines to people aged 65 and over early next year, Health Minister Lena Hallengren said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Sweden has now signed up to a fifth vaccine deal as part of an EU agreement with German pharmaceutical company CureVac. The deal will give Sweden access to a total of 4.5 million doses, which could cover 2.25 million people out of a population of 10 million. It means that the government is raising the vaccine budget from 4.5 billion (527 million U.S. dollars) to 7 billion SEK (820 million dollars).
At the news conference, Sweden's national vaccine coordinator Richard Bergstrom said the five pharmaceutical companies whose vaccines could be purchased by Sweden are showing promising results. Apart from CureVac, they are Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Janssen Pharmaceutica.
"We are going to have to prioritize some people," Johan Carlson, Public Health Agency's director-general, said at the news conference, referring to those who aged above 70 years or who belong to other risk groups, as well as those who work in the healthcare sector, who will be first in line. The general public will have to wait.
Carlson warned that access to a vaccine does not "spell the end of the pandemic or that we can ease the restrictions and measures that are in place to prevent the spread of infection."
The vaccine budget announcement came as Sweden has so far reported a total of 225,560 cases with 6,500 deaths.
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said the situation is "serious," with many new cases detected per week and nearly all of Sweden's 21 regions severely affected by the pandemic.