The Swedish government plans to donate one million doses of AstraZeneca's controversial vaccine to the international collaboration Covax, whose aim is to deliver COVID-19 shots to developing countries free of charge.
"We need to do everything we can to meet this pandemic", Development Aid Minister Per Olsson Fridh of the Green Party told national broadcaster SVT. "Sweden is already a leading financier in the Covax collaboration, but what we are doing now is that we're contributing with one million doses to ensure that more people in the world can get the vaccine quickly", he added.
According to Olsson Fridh, Sweden should not "sit and hold on to doses". As soon as Swedish risk groups have been vaccinated, the nation's vaccines will begin to be donated to other countries, he assured.
Of late, vaccine deliveries to the global vaccine collaboration Covax have been delayed due to the dire situation in India.
"We see how the pandemic is raging around the world. People are dying, poverty is spreading, and children are still not back in school. We need to do everything we can to meet this pandemic, and fight it all over the world", the development aid minister said.
Per Olsson Fridh also said there may be more donations to the vaccine collaboration fund.
Just exactly which countries will be on the receiving end is unclear at present. There are currently 92 countries that receive vaccines through Covax, and it is the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Covax that decide what countries receive them.
According to Sweden's vaccine coordinator Richard Bergström, the nation's vaccination programme will not be affected by the decision to donate the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"We have given Astra Zeneca to those over 65 now, most recently, and in the coming weeks we will take in enough doses to be done with it and have second doses available for those who need it", Bergström said. "And this is a million, we actually have another four or five of Astra Zeneca's vaccine to spare that we can share later".
Earlier this spring, Sweden, like many nations across the globe, paused the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of rare, but serious, blood clots among its recipients. Sweden later resumed ussing it, but only for people aged 65 or above.
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said that his agency recommended people under 65 who have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca to receive a second dose of an mRNA vaccine, such as Pfizer or Moderna. However, for people aged 65 and over, the benefits of AstraZeneca "clearly outweighed" the risks, he said.