Sweden eyes giving third COVID vaccine dose to more people

COVID-19 mass vaccination in Stockholm
People wait to get a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a night club which was turned into a mass vaccination center, in Stockholm, Sweden, April 16, 2021. Carl-Olof Zimmerman/TT News Agency/via REUTERS

STOCKHOLM, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Sweden is looking into giving a third dose COVID vaccine to a larger part of the population over fears that the protective effect of the two shots most have had could start wane, the country's public health agency said on Thursday.

Sweden has vaccinated 83% of the population aged over 16 with one dose and 76% with two doses. The health agency recently identified some 40,000 people in need of a third dose, but said on Thursday more could soon be eligible.

"There are signals from abroad that indicate the protection from the vaccination is fading after some time, especially in those who are older," Public Health Agency official Sara Byfors told a news conference. "It is important to meet that with a third dose."

The number of infections in Sweden have decreased fast in the last two weeks, but there have been several cluster outbreaks at elderly care facilities, with some of them leading to fatalities.

Sweden has opted against lockdowns during the pandemic, instead focusing on mostly voluntary measures. Most measures and recommendations will be ended next week.

It has had several times more deaths per capita from the pandemic than its Nordic neighbours, but lower than in most European countries that opted for lockdowns.

Reporting by Johan Ahlander; Editing by Simon Johnson

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