MANILA – “The price you pay: Sweden’s herd immunity experiment backfires,” read the headline of SFGATE.COM online publication on Friday, May 22. The said article was accompanied by picture of a man standing in a memorial in Stockholm’s Mynttorget Square in memory of loved ones lost to the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). Pots of flowers, lighted candles and handwritten notes are offered, some of which express frustration over Sweden’s softer approach to curbing the illness.
Sweden is among the European nations that suffer from the onslaught of Covid-19. But unlike its neighboring countries, Sweden decided early on the pandemic to forgo lockdown in the hope of achieving broad immunity to the virus. The government allowed bars, restaurants, salons, gyms and schools to stay open although physical distancing was encouraged.
The publication said, that initially Sweden saw death rates from Covid-19 that were similar to other European nations that had closed down their economies. In March, a popular retired Swedish physician was seen on TV telling people that their neighboring countries like the United Kingdom were overacting and that he saw no difference in terms of the number of contaminations and deaths to those countries which did not close down.
He surmises the people who are continuously exposed to the virus will eventually acquire immunity, which he calls “herd immunity” to the virus like common colds or influenza that normally appear during winter season. He said deaths are normal and inevitable, especially on the elderly and those persons with medical issues.
Scientists estimate that the herd immunity for Covid-19 can be reached if “70 to 90 percent of the population becomes immune to the virus, either by becoming infected or getting a protective vaccine.”
But now the Scandinavian nation’s daily death toll per one million people is 8.71 compared to the United States’ 4.49, according to the online publication Our World in Data, making it the highest mortality rate in Europe. Sweden’s mortality rate is even higher than the Philippines 7.6 per one million on May 21 despite the latter’s heavy lockdown of nearly two months.
Bjorn Olsen, a professor of infectious medicine at Uppsala University said “I think herd immunity is a long way off, if we ever reach it.” Meanwhile, Swedish virologist Lena Einhorn chastised the government for denying that it followed the herd immunity strategy in responding to Covid-19, which is responsible for the spike in contaminations and deaths in the country.