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Sweden Extends Vaccination Target After Rejecting J&J Shots

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden said on Friday it would take three weeks longer then expected to offer all adults their first COVID-19 shot after it decided not to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The decision meant there were currently not enough supplies of other vaccines in the country to meet the official mid-August target so authorities would now aim for Sept. 5, health minister Lena Hallengren said.

Sweden’s health authority this month said under-65s should not get the Johnson & Johnson shot following reports of extremely rare blood clots. It gave the all clear for over-65s, but said they were already covered by other vaccines.

Sweden had now told the European Union it did not need any deliveries of the Johnson & Johnson shot, the country’s vaccine coordinator, Richard Bergstrom, said at a press conference with the minister.

Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, registered 7,158 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, health agency statistics showed, bringing the total number of cases to 967,678.

The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 46 new deaths on Friday, taking the total to 14,048.

With the spread of the virus still high and the healthcare system under severe pressure, Hallengren urged Swedes to follow voluntary guidelines on social distancing.

“The spread must come down now,” she told a news conference.

Despite that, the government said it hoped to ease restrictions on some outdoor sporting and cultural events from May 17, if spectators can sit and maintain social distancing.

The new rules would allow up to 500 spectators at football matches, outdoor concerts and similar events.

However, the government said the number of new infections would have to come down further if restrictions were to be eased.

“It would require a considerably better situation regarding infections than we have today,” Hallengren told Swedish radio.

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