Sweden has presented a four-phase vaccination plan, dividing its over 10 million population into priority groups.
"We want the vaccine to be used to create conditions for good health and good protection, on equal terms, in the entire population", Johan Carlson, Director General of the Swedish Public Health Agency, said in a press release.
The plan, however, has raised eyebrows, as it apparently places illegal immigrants ahead of ordinary Swedish citizens.
During Phase 4, the last, people aged 18 years and over without ailments are to be vaccinated. The previous group, Phase 3, includes people with chronic heart diseases, diabetes, Down syndrome, dementia, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. However, even the group of homeless and/or illegal immigrants (notably, the Swedish Public Health Agency prefers the term "undocumented") is given priority over ordinary citizens and people with residence permits.
The exact number of illegal immigrants in Sweden remains unclear. Estimates in recent years have varied between just over 10,000 up to 100,000.
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson called this prioritising "remarkable" and "unreasonable".
"This is a very remarkable priority. To prioritise someone is always to deprioritise someone else. It is an unreasonable arrangement that people who are in Sweden illegally are jumping the queue to the vaccine ahead of Swedish citizens and those with resident permits", Åkesson tweeted.
Illegala migranter ska inte få förtur till vaccinet.— Jimmie Åkesson (@jimmieakesson) February 4, 2021
Detta är en mycket anmärkningsvärd prioritering. Att prioritera någon är alltid att prioritera bort någon annan. Det är en orimlig ordning att människor som befinner sig illegalt i Sverige får förtur till vaccinet och går före pic.twitter.com/merc0Jp2ah
"I'm flabbergasted really. At least 80,000 people live in Sweden illegally, but no one actually knows how many they really are, and they will now be able to receive the vaccine at taxpayers' expense in a country where they have no right to stay in the first place", journalist, blogger, and public affairs specialist Rebecca Weidmo Uvell wrote.
At the same time, the Swedish Public Health Agency emphasised that socioeconomics should be taken into account when prioritising who should receive the vaccine first during all phases. This also triggered criticism from the national-conservative Sweden Democrats, currently polling as the largest opposition party.
"In Sweden, we have had a recognised system where citizens with old age or underlying diseases have been prioritised, in addition, care staff have also been included. Now they are deviating from this and include country of birth and socioeconomics", Sweden Democrats group leader in the Stockholm region Gabriel Kroon said. In practice, he ventured, this will lead to immigrant-heavy areas, such as Rinkeby and Tensta, having higher priority. "Poverty occurs in all areas, therefore an alternative distribution should be based on an individual's socio-economic situation, rather than the socioeconomy for the entire geographical area in which the individual lives", Kroon said, emphasising that the vaccines are in short supply.
Sweden, the hardest-hit nation in Scandinavia, with 581,000 COVID-19 cases and 12,000 fatalities, so far has managed to vaccinate just over 3 percent of the population, with barely 0.5 percent having received both shots.
During Phase 1, nursing home residents and staff received their shots. In Phase 2, which begins in February, people with organ transplants, those aged 65 and over, people with dialysis needs, and healthcare staff will receive their jabs.