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Combating COVID-19 with vaccination and education


High vaccination rates and a marked increase in knowledge among large segments of the population are factors that can help to prevent transmission and reduce incidence of severe disease during the pandemic. COVID-19 expert Magnus Gisslén’s advice is to take great care during the holiday season and stay informed.

Globally, after only two years, research articles written and published about COVID-19 now far outnumber those about most other diseases.

According to Magnus Gisslén, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, and Chief Physician at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, this has been a boom beyond compare.

In parallel, there has been a big upsurge in ordinary Swedes’ knowledge too — a rise in popular education that we largely have the mass media and government agencies to thank for, Gisslén thinks.

Magnus Gisslén, Institute of Biomedicine, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.
Photo: Ingrid Gisslén

“Basically, I think all the main Swedish media, print and broadcast alike, have had very good coverage of the pandemic, both in choosing what aspects to address and in going about it. Broadly speaking, we’ve been able to rely on what’s been reported.”

Better equipped to understand

“On the other hand, if you go outside what the major, mainstream media and public agencies have to say, above all if you look at social media, you’ll really find everything under the sun. Some of it’s true but other things are wrong, or misinterpreted.”

Are we better equipped than before to understand news connected with the pandemic?

“Yes, I’m certain we are. Informing the public has gone well, and many people have learnt a great deal that they’ll benefit from going forward. It doesn’t apply to everyone, of course, but it’s true for those who are interested, read newspapers and keep up with what’s happening, I’m absolutely positive. There’s been an immense amount of coverage about COVID-19 from every possible point of view — epidemiological, medical, about vaccines, and on how the disease progresses.”

What do you think of the new fast track in research, with studies being published before the usual review?

“That’s true, and you have to read them critically, like everything else. But I think it’s often evident from the articles that they’re based on preliminary studies, or the results are only preliminary. The fact that study findings rapidly go public has also contributed to fast dissemination of knowledge and benefited other research groups.”

Stay tuned and take care

What’s most important now, during the holiday season and whenever people take time off work?

“Socializing is less risky than last year when no one was vaccinated. Lots of older people in Sweden have had a third dose, but you still have to take care. Large get-togethers, where you spend a long time indoors in big groups, are best avoided.”

What about crowded shops and being out and about — what should we do?

“Avoid cramped indoor conditions when possible. Personally, I think face masks should be used on public transport when it’s crowded — they provide some protection. Make sure you keep up with what’s going on, follow the current recommendations and be careful. Those are the main messages,” Gisslén says.

“No matter how the spread of infection develops and which virus variant is dominant, vaccinations are the best way of preventing severe cases of disease. All the research agrees on that. It’s important to bear in mind that even vaccinated people can get infected, and infect others who are less well protected and who, in turn, risk falling seriously ill,” he concludes.

Updated information about the pandemic