Vaccination in Sweden

Vaccines are medicines that protect against certain infectious diseases. Here you can read more about what a vaccine is, what it contains and what safety requirements are in place during their manufacture.

Vaccines are medicines that protect against various infectious diseases, primarily those that spread through bacteria or viruses. These diseases can cause serious symptoms and can sometimes be life-threatening.

Vaccines help the body's own immune system

Vaccines contain a small or weakened part of the virus or bacteria that causes the disease. The virus or bacteria is weakened so that you do not become seriously ill from it. However, the body's immune system reacts and starts to produce the cells and antibodies needed to get rid of the disease. Vaccines are usually given through an injection in the arm, thigh or buttock.

When you get vaccinated, you also protect others

Not everyone can get vaccinated. This applies, for example, to people with impaired immune systems. Newborn babies also lack protection against several diseases during the first few months. However, if enough people in the rest of the population are vaccinated, the disease cannot spread. Therefore, you also protect others when you get vaccinated against the diseases in the national vaccination programme.

Are vaccines safe?

There are strict safety requirements for vaccines. These requirements apply irrespective of whether the vaccine is to be given within a national vaccination programme or not.

Before any vaccine is given to large numbers of people, it will have been tested and studied in several different ways for a long time. Before it is allowed to be used in Sweden, the vaccine must be approved by the Swedish Medical Products Agency or centrally within the EU. Even when approved, the vaccine is monitored to detect uncommon effects.

Vaccines in pandemics

Sometimes diseases arise that rapidly spread all over the world and infect many people. In such outbreaks, vaccines need to be developed quickly and in large quantities in order to be beneficial.

Before a pandemic vaccine is approved, the authorities will have assessed that the benefit of the vaccine outweighs the risks of adverse effects.

Like all vaccines, a pandemic vaccine is carefully monitored even after it has been approved and put into use. 

Side effects

Like other medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. The most common side effects are redness and swelling around the site of the injection. Some people get a low-grade fever for a few days or a reaction resembling the disease they were vaccinated against.

Serious side effects after vaccination are very rare, but they do occur. In 2009, following vaccination with Pandemrix against swine influenza A (H1N1), some Swedish children and young adults developed narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a condition that, among other things, can cause tiredness and sleep attacks. It is not clear why the vaccine increased the risk of narcolepsy in some people.

What do vaccines contain?

A vaccine contains a small part of the virus or bacteria that causes the disease. In addition to this, other substances are added that make the vaccine more effective. These include substances that cause the body's immune system to react. Some vaccines may also contain preservatives, but this is not very common nowadays. If you want to know if a vaccine contains preservatives, ask a healthcare professional.

Vaccines can be either live or inactivated

Vaccines are manufactured differently depending on how the virus or bacteria work. In most cases, dead bacteria or viruses are used. This is called killing or inactivation of the virus or bacteria. The polio vaccine is one example of such a vaccine.

In some cases, the virus or bacteria must be alive in order for the vaccine to be effective. The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is an example of a live vaccine. The virus or bacteria are weakened so that you do not get the disease.

Residual products from manufacturing

Vaccines may contain residual traces of the substances used during their manufacture. If the residual products that may remain in a vaccine can cause allergic reactions, the manufacturer must state this in the Summary of Product Characteristics. A Summary of Product Characteristics is a summary of the medicine's characteristics and use and is intended for doctors and other medical personnel. For example, a vaccine may contain egg proteins from culture. However, most people with egg allergies can still be vaccinated. If you have an egg allergy, talk to your doctor before you get vaccinated.

Vaccination is always voluntary

All vaccinations are voluntary in Sweden. Before you decide on vaccination for yourself or for someone else, you will be informed about the purpose of the vaccination, the protection it can provide and any side effects.

If you're worried about having your child vaccinated, feel free to talk with the personnel at your local child healthcare clinic (BVC) or the school nurse to get answers to any questions you may have. You can also seek information from 1177, the Swedish Medical Products Agency and the Public Health Agency of Sweden. 

Some countries may require you to be vaccinated against a specific disease before entering the country. Before a trip abroad, it may be a good idea to ask your primary healthcare centre or vaccination clinic for advice in good time.