Despite being given priority during the vaccination phases, significantly fewer immigrants than Swedes have been inoculated against COVID-19, a new report from the Swedish Public Health Agency (FHM) has revealed.
For instance, in the 80 and over age bracket, the vaccination coverage among those born in Sweden is 91 percent, according to the FHM's data. Trailing Swedes, are people born in other Scandinavian countries at 85 percent, and North America and the EU at 81 percent and 77 percent, respectively. The lowest proportion of vaccinated individuals is seen among those born in North Africa at 59 percent and the rest of Africa at 44 percent, the national broadcaster SVT reported.
These figures puzzled the authorities because these particular groups have been given high priority.
"We do not know the reasons behind the smaller numbers in these groups. We're following it up with several investigations", state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told national broadcaster SVT. "Hard-to-reach and vulnerable groups are prioritised through all phases", Tegnell added.
Asked during a press conference, whether the FHM failed to properly address these groups, Tegnell said the authorities are "working to reach these groups", but it is "not easy" and that "further efforts and measures are needed".
At the same time, some immigrant groups have been hit much harder by severe COVID-19. Compared with Swedish-born individuals, people born in Africa have a 3.4 times greater risk of dying, and individuals born in the Middle East have a 2.8 times greater risk of dying from the disease, according to earlier reports.
Earlier in the pandemic, foreign-born residents of Sweden, mainly those born in Somalia and Iraq, were found to be overrepresented among COVID-19 patients. This was largely attributed to socio-economic issues such as cramped housing conditions, poverty, and inability to avoid jobs with high exposure, as well as the authorities' failure to deliver information in an accessible way and in their native languages.
Similar problems were earlier encountered in neighbouring Norway and Finland, where immigrants from Africa and the Middle East were hit disproportionately.
An earlier report by the Norwegian Public Health Institute (FHI) highlighted immigrants from Africa and Eastern Europe as the most "vaccine-sceptical", with up to 30 percent saying a flat "no" to inoculation.