No evidence that the low number of cases of covid-19 in Sweden is due to flock immunity; vaccines do not lead to new variants of SARS-CoV-2
“Sweden erases the lie about” vaccines “as a ticket to an end to the pandemic” mass vaccination creates vaccine-mediated virus reinforcement
Actually wrong: In contrast to the article, Sweden experienced a peak in COVID-19 cases in July 2021 due to the Delta variant, which has since become the dominant variant in the country.
Insufficient support: There is no evidence that covid-19 vaccines lead to the generation of variants. In fact, the Delta variant was first discovered months before vaccines were approved. The article also repeatedly claimed that Sweden had achieved herd immunity, but offered no evidence for this claim.
KEY TO REMOVE
Although Sweden started its COVID-19 vaccination campaign later than other countries, from November 2021, its vaccine coverage is similar to that in the USA and the UK. There is no evidence that the low number of covid-19 cases in Sweden is due to herd immunity rather than vaccination, which scientific evidence has shown reduces the transmission of covid-19. There is no evidence to support the claim that covid-19 vaccines lead to more dangerous variants. Evidence from clinical trials and the monitoring of vaccination campaigns show that covid-19 vaccines are effective in reducing covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths.
COMPLETE APPLICATION: “The fact that Sweden has never received a delta wave shows that only natural immunity would have ended this pandemic”; “Vaccinologists like Geert Vanden Bossche and Luc Montagnier were right when they predicted that mass vaccination with a suboptimal, non-sterilizing vaccine in the midst of a pandemic would create vaccine-mediated viral improvement”
Various countries experienced an increase in cases of covid-19 in 2021 despite ongoing vaccination campaigns. Some stores used the Delta scale to question the effectiveness of the covid-19 vaccines. An example of this is This article by Daniel Horowitz, published in The Blaze on November 16, 2021. Horowitz wrote earlier articles that contained inaccurate and misleading information about face masks and covid-19 vaccines, which Health Feedback addressed here and here.
The article went viral shortly after publication – on November 23, 2021, it received more than 7,000 views on Facebook according to the analysis tool CrowdTangle for social media. But as we will explain below, the statements in the article are incorrect and unfounded.
The article drew attention to the low number of covid-19 cases in Sweden in November 2021 in relation to the number of cases in other countries and claimed that this event “obliterates the lie about” vaccines “as a ticket to end the pandemic. The article also linked vaccines to the increase in new cases of covid-19, and claimed that this was evidence that the vaccines cause “vaccine-mediated viral improvement”, as researchers such as Geert Vanden Bossche and Luc Montagnier claimed.
But the reduction of covid-19 cases, deaths and hospital stays in Sweden after July 2021 coincides in time with the increase in the proportion vaccinated in the country, which contradicts this statement (Figure 1).
Figure 1. administered covid-19 vaccine doses, new cases of covid-19, patients in the intensive care unit and new deaths due to covid-19 in Sweden, in relation to the population in the country. Data retrieved November 26, 2021. Source: Our world in data.
Statement 1 (incorrect): “Sweden has never had a delta wave”
The article stated that “Swedes have never experienced a single delta wave”, without Sweden SAW an increase in covid-19 cases where Delta was the dominant variant in July 2021. Delta has since become the common variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the country.
Although the number of new cases since July 2021 was lower than those experienced during the two previous waves, they were similar to those experienced by Sweden during the first wave of covid-19, between March and August 2020. In addition, the number of cases is due. to Delta in the country is on the rise at the time of writing this review (Figure 2).
Overall, since Delta became the dominant variant in Sweden in July 2021, it has existed more than 105,000 new cases and about 500 deaths due to covid-19. This accounts for about 9% of covid-19 cases in Sweden (out of a total 1.2 million cases since the beginning of the pandemic, on November 26, 2021), and about 3% of all covid-19 deaths in the country (of a total of 15 145 dead).
Figure 2. Daily new confirmed cases of covid-19 per million people in Sweden, 7-day rolling average. Data retrieved November 26, 2021. Source: Our world in data.
Statement 2 (incorrect): Covid-19 vaccines led to “vaccine-mediated viral improvement”
The article claimed that COVID-19 vaccination made SARS-CoV-2 more dangerous due to a phenomenon known as “vaccine-mediated viral enhancement”. This may be a reference to a previous claim caused by the covid-19 vaccines antibody-dependent amplification (ADE). This claim was rejected by Health Feedback here. In addition, there is plenty of evidence that covid-19 vaccine provides protection against the disease, prevents hospitalizations and deaths. This is inconsistent with the claim that covid-19 vaccines cause ADE.
Another way of interpreting the term “vaccine-mediated viral enhancement”, which is not a well-known scientific concept, is based on the article’s claim that vaccination “makes the virus learn to grow stronger and more sustainable”, referring to the emergence of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2. But this variant of the virus was first isolated in India in October 2020, months before the vaccination campaign started, so it is impossible that vaccination has caused the Delta variant.
The article also claimed that Geert Vanden Bossche and Luc Montagnier were right in their predictions about COVID-19 vaccines. Vanden Bossche published an open letter claims that vaccination campaigns against covid-19 would accelerate the emergence of dangerous variants of the virus. However, his hypotheses were not based on evidence, nor were they supported by previous experience with other vaccination campaigns, such as those for measles and mumps, as explained in this review of Health Feedback and This article by McGill University’s Office of Science and Society.
As for Montagnier, he claimed in a video that “the new variants are a production and a result of the vaccination” and “the vaccination curve is followed by the death curve”, with reference to ADE. These allegations have been dealt with in several fact checks, e.g. this one from PolitiFact and this one of Reuters.
Statement 3 (not supported): The low number of covid-19 cases in Sweden is due to herd immunity from previous infections
The article’s central argument rests on its claim that the lower number of covid-19 cases in Sweden compared to other countries is explained by the population’s flock immunity to covid-19, which states that “the fact that Sweden has never received a delta wave shows that only natural immunity would have ended this pandemic ”.
The article claimed that since Sweden had already achieved herd immunity through infection before vaccinations, vaccination does not explain the low number of covid-19 cases in the country. The article went so far as to claim that the incidence of covid-19 would still be the same even if Sweden’s population had not been vaccinated.
Apart from the erroneous claim that “never received a delta wave”, as explained earlier, Horowitz gave no evidence to support his assumption that Sweden has already achieved infection-induced herd immunity, or “natural immunity” as the article called it.
The article by The Blaze indicated that Sweden started its vaccination campaign against covid-19 later than other countries such as the USA or the UK. But the current vaccine coverage in the country is similar to these countries. According to data collected by Reuters, Sweden has administered more than 15,250,000 doses of covid-19 vaccine as of November 23, 2021.
According to Our world in data69% of Sweden’s population has already been fully vaccinated against covid-19. This figure is similar to those in countries such as the United Kingdom (68%) or Germany (68%) and higher than that in the United States (58%) or the average for European countries (57%) (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Proportion of fully vaccinated in different countries. Data retrieved November 26, 2021. Source: Our world in data.
Current data suggest that vaccines reduce the transmission of covid-19, also for the Delta variant. Therefore, because vaccines reduce the transmission of covid-19, we can not dismiss their contribution to Sweden’s currently low number of cases, as Horowitz did.
Statement 4 (misleading): A study conducted in Sweden “found no effect of the Pfizer syringe after 6-7 months”
The article cited a study conducted in Sweden that examined the effectiveness of covid-19 vaccines for nine months. The article claimed that “[the study] found that after 6-7 months, “no effect could be detected” from the Pfizer shot “and that” for some older adults, the shots are as much as -77% effective “after seven months.
However, this is an incomplete and misleading interpretation of the study results. Although the study reported that “from day 211 onwards no effect could be detected”, this finding was regarding the efficacy of the vaccine against symptomatic infection, as shown in data from the study’s supplementary table 4). The study found that the efficacy of the vaccine against covid-19 hospitalization and death remained high even nine months after vaccination, with over 50% of the efficacy against serious disease for all groups in the study (shown in its Appendix Table 5), and the authors concluded that their findings “[strengthen] the evidence-based justification for administering a third booster dose ”.
In summary, the article provided no evidence that infection-induced immunity is the cause of the low number of cases in Sweden. Given that the vaccine coverage in the country is almost 70%, which is similar to other countries such as the United Kingdom or Germany, vaccines can not be ruled out as the reason for the reduction in Sweden’s COVID-19 cases. There is also no evidence to support the article’s claim that vaccines produce variants that are more dangerous.