Sweden’s chief epidemiologist stood by the country’s approach to the pandemic, even after facing fierce criticism from experts and the King of Sweden.
Anders Tegnell said Sweden had made some mistakes in its approach to the pandemic, but “did not fare very badly at all” overall.
He made the comments in an interview with Unherd, a UK website that focuses on contrarian reporting.
The country’s chief epidemiologist hit the headlines as Sweden captured the attention of the world for resisting the imposition of strict lockdowns to control the spread of the virus, instead putting the onus on the residents to chose what to do.
Reuters reported in March that preliminary data from EU statistics agency Eurostat suggested that Sweden had excess mortality of 7.7% for 2020, compared to 18.1% and 16.2% for Spain and Belgium.
That said, other Nordic countries did embrace lockdowns and achieved lower excess mortality than Sweden. Norway registered no excess deaths in 2020, per the Reuters article.
Commentators have suggested that it is fairest to compare Sweden with its nearest neighbors because it shares with them relevant features like the density of its population, its climate, and its lifestyle.
Tegnell admitted that Sweden made assumptions about the level of immunity needed to control the virus that were not attainable.
“There was definitely a need of a much higher level of immunity in a population that can only really shift by vaccination to control this disease in any reasonable manner. That’s definitely true – we didn’t see that.”
He also noted that “high vaccination level is the one way we can get out of this pandemic.”
Vaccines are highly effective against severe disease and death from COVID-19.
Tegnell defended the decision to let children go to school in Sweden. He argued that children there “have definitely been affected by the pandemic, but to a lot lesser degree than children would have been if we had closed the schools.”
The figure was three times more than in Denmark, eight times more than in Finland, and nearly 10 times more than in Norway, Insider’s Aria Bendix previously reported.