Municipalities call for swine flu inquiry

The Swedish taxpayer spent 1.4 billion ($181 million) in connection with the mass vaccination programme against the swine flu last autumn and the Association of Local Authorities and Regions (Sveriges Kommuner och Landsting - SKL) has called for an independent inquiry.

“The key issue that we have to look at is if it is really worthwhile spending these vast sums of tax revenues. It is money which could have been used for other healthcare,” Göran Stiernstedt at SKL told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) daily.

SKL has calculated the total cost of the swine flu vaccination programme and identified the purchase of vaccines as the largest cost, amounting to 870 million kronor.

“It would have been even worse had we not been able to renegotiate the vaccine agreement and cut costs by almost 300 million,” he said.

When the swine flu outbreak was declared a pandemic on June 11th 2009, Sweden elected to offer vaccinations to the entire population, one of the few countries to do so, according to SvD.

Sweden had already ordered 18 million doses after the previous avian flu outbreak and when symptoms of the swine flu began to emerge in September around 5.5 million people were vaccinated in a mass programme that was accompanied by massive media coverage.

Despite the massive demand only 7 million doses were used, leaving 11 million doses in surplus.

The Local reported in May 2010 that Sweden was able to cut the final bill by 300 million kronor after the vaccine’s manufacturer Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) agreed to cut the number of supplied doses by 25 percent from 18 to 13.5 million doses.

Despite the agreement Sweden still now has some 6.5 million doses, worth 400 million kronor, that now risk becoming useless and SKL has called for an in depth examination of Sweden’s management of the pandemic.

After the initial wave of infections in August and September, few cases were reported in Sweden after November. A total of 11,000 registered cases of swine flu were reported with 29 deaths.

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