sweden-15-1644921584947
People at one of Stockholm's busiest shopping street on February 4, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

Stockholm: Sweden is recommending a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to people over age 80 and those living in nursing homes or getting home care, authorities said, adding it must be administered no earlier than four months after the previous shot.

The Scandinavian country’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, said in a statement from the Swedish Public Health Agency that a fourth dose “strengthens the protection’’ against severe disease.

For most of the pandemic, Sweden has stood out among European nations for its comparatively hands-off response. It never went into lockdown or closed businesses, largely relying instead on individual responsibility to control infections. While coronavirus deaths were high compared with other Nordic countries, they were lower than many other places in Europe that did implement lockdowns.

Earlier this month in neighbouring Denmark, health authorities there said that they were considering “winding down” the country’s coronavirus vaccination program in the spring and saw no reason to administer a booster dose to children or a fourth shot to anymore residents at risk of severe COVID-19.

The reasoning for the Danish Health Authority was that the third infection wave in Denmark was waning because of the population’s significant rates of natural immunity and vaccination. In January, the Danish government said it offered a fourth vaccine dose to older adults and other vulnerable citizens because they were concerned about the rapid spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. But omicron is milder compared to previous variants and there hasn’t been a strain on health care systems.

Last week, Sweden halted wide-scale testing for COVID-19 even among people showing symptoms of an infection.