Herd immunity is not stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus in Sweden, an official in the country said this week.
“The issue of herd immunity is difficult,” Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s top epidemiologist, said at a briefing in Stockholm on Tuesday, according to Bloomberg. “We see no signs of immunity in the population that are slowing down the infection right now.”
Sweden did not impose a nationwide lockdown, with officials in the country instead relying on “voluntary measures,” per Bloomberg, which cited figures that show Swedes have had more COVID-19 exposure than residents in other countries in the Nordic region.
Some have called Sweden’s response to the virus a “disaster,” while other experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, top infectious disease expert in the US, who has proclaimed the concept of herd immunity to be “nonsense and very dangerous.”
“Quite frankly, that is nonsense and anybody who knows anything about epidemiology will tell you that that is nonsense and very dangerous,” Fauci said.
(His comments came after Daniel Klaidman, editor in chief at Yahoo News, questioned whether herd immunity were a viable strategy in the US, citing The Great Barrington Declaration and reports that some White House officials have embraced the approach. The Declaration, penned by professors at Harvard, Oxford and Stanford universities, calls for “focused protection” by letting young, low-risk populations carry on with their lives and naturally becoming infected while protecting those at high risk.)
In an interview with New Statesman in October, Tegnell defended his country’s response to the virus.
“In common with other countries we’re trying to slow down the spread as much as possible. … To imply that we let the disease run free without any measures to try to stop it is not true,” Tegnell told the publication at the time.
“I want to make it clear, no, we did not lockdown like many other countries, but we definitely had a virtual lockdown,” Tegnell continued. “Swedes changed their behavior enormously. We stopped traveling even more than our neighboring countries. The airports had no flights anywhere, the trains were running at a few percent of normal service, so there were enormous changes in society.”
To date, Sweden has recorded more than 230,000 virus cases and roughly 6,500 deaths from the disease, according to estimates from Johns Hopkins University.