Covid booster shots in Sweden: Who can get them and how to book

Now that Sweden has started offering booster shots, some of The Local's readers have been wondering how to go about booking, and whether they're eligible. Here's our guide on how it's done.

Covid booster shots in Sweden: Who can get them and how to book
Sweden has started administering booster shots of the Covid-19 vaccine. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Who is eligible in the first round?

The first round of Covid-19 booster shots are now being offered to some groups of Swedish society.

People eligible for the first round of boosters include:

  • Those born in 1956 or earlier (aged 65 or over)
  • Those living in elderly care homes
  • Those receiving at-home care
  • Those working in elderly care homes or with at-home care

Additionally, there are rules on how much time must have passed since your second dose before you are eligible for a third dose.

If you are over 65, you need to wait five months after your second dose before you are able to get your third. If you are in one of the other groups eligible for a booster shot of the Covid-19 vaccine, you will need to wait six months.

Who will be eligible in the second round, and when will that start?

The second round of booster shots will be given once 80 percent of those aged 65-79 have received their first dose. This will be measured on a regional level, meaning that the start date of the second round of booster shots will be slightly different in different regions, as regions each individually reach this milestone.

Once this goal has been achieved, the following people will be eligible for a booster dose:

  • Those aged 50-64
  • Adults receiving LSS assistance, as well as adults receiving personal assistant benefits due to a disability
  • Adults in the following risk groups:
    • Chronic cardiovascular disease, including strokes and hypertension (high blood pressure)
    • Chronic lung disease such as COPD and severe and unstable asthma
    • Other conditions that lead to impaired lung function or impaired coughing and secretion stagnation (for example, extreme obesity, neuromuscular diseases or multiple disabilities)
    • Chronic liver or kidney failure
    • Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
    • Conditions that severely weaken the immune system due to an illness or treatment
    • Down syndrome
    • Pregnant women with certain pregnancy-related risk factors – such as age over 35, hypertension, diabetes, a BMI over 30, or other factors determined after individual assessment.

Once 60 percent of those aged 50-64 have received their booster dose, doses will be extended to those aged 18-49, prioritised by age.

How do I book my booster shot?

For those who are eligible for booster shots, the booking system varies depending on which region you live in – check healthcare website 1177 for details if you are unsure what applies to you (click välj region in the menu bar to select specific information for your region).

In some regions you will be contacted directly by your healthcare centre (vårdcentral) where you got your first two vaccine doses and given an appointment, in others you will need to contact your healthcare centre yourself for an appointment or go to a drop-in vaccination service.

You should take your Covid pass or your proof of vaccination with you and ID.

Those living in care homes will be vaccinated at home.

The third dose is, just like the first two, free for everyone in Sweden, including foreign residents without a Swedish identity number (personnummer). If you do lack a personnummer, you may find it easiest to go to a drop-in service once you become eligible for the third dose, rather than try to book an appointment, but the best and most efficient procedure will likely depend on which region you live in.

The Local has contacted the Public Health Agency for more information on how this will work for those who are eligible for booster shots but received their first and second vaccines outside of Sweden.

Thanks to everyone who has got in touch to ask about booster shots. You are always welcome to get in touch with our editorial team at [email protected] if you have further questions. We may not be able to reply to every email, but we read them all and they help inform our coverage.

Member comments

  1. Tack för uppdateringen! Please keep this story & booster shot availability up to date, as my family will be watching and waiting.

  2. Once again this plan shows no flexibility to those of us who were vaccinated abroad – since vaccinations were available earlier in the USA my shots will already be over 9 months old starting next month, yet it seems unlikely that my age group will have access to a booster shot in Sweden for many months to come.

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FACT CHECK: Did Sweden have lower pandemic mortality than Denmark and Norway?

A graphic published by the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper last week claimed that Sweden had the lowest excess mortality of all EU and Nordic counties between the start of 2020 and the end of 2022. We looked into whether this extraordinary claim is true (and it is, sort of).

FACT CHECK: Did Sweden have lower pandemic mortality than Denmark and Norway?

At one point in May 2020, Sweden had the highest Covid-19 death rate in the world, spurring newspapers like the New York Times and Time Magazine to present the country as a cautionary tale, a warning of how much more Covid-19 could ravage populations if strict enough measures were not applied. 

“Per million people, Sweden has suffered 40 percent more deaths than the United States, 12 times more than Norway, seven times more than Finland and six times more than Denmark,” the New York Times reported in July 2020

An article in Time in October 2020 declared Sweden’s Covid response “a disaster”, citing figures from Johns Hopkins University ranking Sweden’s per capita death rate as the 12th highest in the world.

So there was undisguised glee among lockdown sceptics when Svenska Dagbladet published data last week showing that in the pandemic years 2020, 2021 and 2022 Sweden’s excess mortality was the lowest, not only in the European Union, but also of all the Nordic countries, beating even global Covid-19 success stories, such as Norway, Denmark and Finland. 

Versions of the graph or links to the story were tweeted out by international anti-lockdown figures such as Bjørn Lomborg, a Danish sceptic of climate action, and Fraser Nelson, editor of Britain’s Spectator Magazine, while in Sweden columnists like Dagens Nyheter’s Alex Schulman and Svenska Dagbladet’s opinion editor Peter Wennblad showed that Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist who led Sweden’s strategy, had been “right all along”. 

Excess mortality — the number of people who die in a year compared to the number expected to die based on previous years — is seen by some statisticians as a better measure for comparing countries’ Covid-19 responses, as it is less vulnerable to differences in how Covid-19 deaths are reported. 

But are these figures legitimate, where do they come from, and do they show what they purport to show?

Here are the numbers used by SvD in its chart: 

Where do the numbers come from? 

Örjan Hemström, a statistician specialising in births and deaths at Sweden’s state statistics agency Statistics Sweden (SCB), put together the figures at the request of Svenska Dagbladet. 

He told The Local that the numbers published in the newspaper came from him and had not been doctored in any way by the journalists.

He did, however, point out that he had produced an alternative set of figures for the Nordic countries, which the newspaper chose not to use, in which Sweden had exactly the same excess mortality as Denmark and Norway. 

“I think they also could have published the computation I did for the Nordic countries of what was expected from the population predictions,” he said of the way SvD had used his numbers. “It takes into consideration trends in mortality by age and sex. The excess deaths were more similar for Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Almost the same.” 

Here are Hemström’s alternative numbers: 

There are two basic ways of measuring excess mortality. The simplest, and the one used by SvD/SCB, is to simply compare the death rates in the relevant period with the mean of previous years, normally five years. 

More sophisticated measures attempt to estimate the expected number of deaths by extending mortality trends seen in a certain country, adjusting for the age of the population and other factors. But this can lead to results to vary significantly depending on how mortality trends and expected mortality are calculated. 

The issue with the analysis in the SvD graph is that compares deaths in the pandemic years to deaths over just three years, a mean of 2017-2019, and does not properly take into account Sweden’s longstanding declining mortality trend, or the gently rising mortality trend in some other countries where mortality is creeping upwards due to an ageing population, such as Finland. 

“It’s very difficult to compare countries and the longer the pandemic goes on for the harder it is, because you need a proper baseline, and that baseline depends on what happened before,” Karin Modig, an epidemiologist at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute whose research focuses on ageing populations, told The Local.

“As soon as you compare between countries, it’s more difficult because countries have different trends of mortality, they have different age structures, and in the pandemic they might have had different seasonal variations.” 

She described analyses such as Hemström’s as “quite crude”. 

In an interview with SvD to accompany the graph, Tegnell also pushed back against giving the numbers too much weight. 

“Mortality doesn’t tell the whole story about what effect a pandemic has had on different countries,” he said. “The excess mortality measure has its weaknesses and depends a lot on the demographic structures of countries, but anyway, when it comes to that measure, it looks like Sweden managed to do quite well.”

Do the numbers match those provided by other international experts and media? 

Sweden’s excess mortality over the three years of the pandemic is certainly below average worldwide, but in most other analyses it remains higher than those of Norway and Denmark. 

A ranking of excess mortality put together by Our World in Data for the same period as the SvD/SCB table estimates Sweden’s excess mortality between the start of 2020 and the end of 2022 at 5.62 percent, considerably more than the 4.4 percent SvD claims, and above that of Norway on 5.08 percent and Denmark on 2.52 percent. 

The Economist newspaper also put together an estimate, using their own method based on projected deaths. In this estimate, Sweden also has a higher rate of excess deaths than Denmark and Norway (but not than Finland).   

Our World in Data uses the estimate produced by Ariel Karlinsky and Dmitry Kobak, who manage the World Mortality Dataset (WMD). To produce the estimate, they fit a regression model for each region using historical deaths data from 2015–2019, so a time period of five years rather than the three used by SCB.

What’s clear, is that, whatever method you use, Sweden and the other Nordic countries are among the countries with the lowest excess mortality over the pandemic. 

“Most methods seem to put Sweden and the other Nordic countries among the countries in Europe with the lowest cumulative excess deaths for 2020-2022,” Preben Aavitsland, the Director for Surveillance and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, told The Local.

So if Sweden had similar excess mortality to those of the other Nordics over the period, does that mean it had a similar Covid-19 death rate?

No. Sweden’s per capita death rate from Covid-19 over the period covered by the SvD/SCB figures, at 2,249 per million people, is still more than double Norway’s 959 per million, 60 percent more than the 1,409 per million who died in Denmark, and more than 50 percent more than the 1,612 per million who died in Finland. 

Sweden’s death rate is now much closer to those of the other Nordic countries than it was at the end of 2020, however, something Aavitsland put down to the higher number of Covid-19 deaths seen in his country in the later years of the pandemic. 

“The most striking difference between Sweden and the other Nordic countries is that only Sweden had large excess mortality in 2020 and the winter of 2020-21,” Aavitsland explained. “In 2022, the field levelled out as the other countries also had excess mortality when most of the population was infected by the omicron variant after all measures had been lifted.”

So why, if the Covid-19 death rates are still so different, are the excess mortality rates so similar?

This largely reflects the fact that many of those who died in Sweden in the first year of the pandemic were elderly people in care homes who would have died anyway by the end of 2022. 

About 90 percent of Covid-19 deaths were in people above 70, Aavitsland pointed out, adding that this is the same age group where you find around 80 percent of all deaths, regardless of cause, in a Scandinavian country. 

“My interpretation is that in the first year of the pandemic, say March 2020 – February 2021, Sweden had several thousand excess deaths among the elderly, including nursing home residents,” he said. “Most of this was caused by Covid-19. In the other [Nordic] countries, more people like these survived, but they died in 2022. The other countries managed to delay some deaths, but now, three years after, we end up at around the same place.” 

So does that mean Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was right all along? 

It depends on how you view the years lost by the several thousand elderly people who caught Covid-19 and died in Sweden in the first wave because Sweden did not follow the example of Denmark, Norway, and Finland and bring in a short three-week lockdown in March and April 2020. Were those two years worth the greater restrictions imposed in Sweden’s neighbours? 

Tegnell himself probably said it best in the SvD interview. 

“You’ve got to remember that a lot of people died in the pandemic, which is of course terrible in many ways, not least for their many loved ones who were affected, so you need to be a bit humble when presented with these kinds of figures.”