ÅLIDHEM – Västerbotten officials announced today that they are planning to start vaccinating residents against the coronavirus starting in mid-January. The first doses would be given to elderly and those who work with them, including nursing home staff. By the end of July, the officials said, they hope to vaccinate as many adults as possible in the region.
Västerbotten’s vaccine coordinator Ronny Lestander said that these efforts to immunize vast portions of the Umeå population would occur “provided that the vaccines are approved by the European Union, delivered on time, and in the amount announced.”
The delivery plan would see Västerbotten receiving some 6000 doses in January and 15000 in February, of two or three different vaccines. The total population of Västerbotten is about 273 thousand people. Vaccinations will be free of cost, the region said. The elderly and those who work with them are being prioritized because, the officials said, older people are at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus.
Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus patients in the hospital in Västerbotten rose today to a record high of 36, with five in intensive care. During the worst part of the first wave of the virus this past spring, the maximum number in the hospital at one time was 29. The number of recorded cases per person in Umeå, relative to the rest of Västerbotten, remains high but not nearly as bad as Skellefteå, the hardest-hit city. 2216 coronavirus diagnoses have been made in Umeå Kommun, which has a population of about 129 thousand people. In contrast, Skellefteå Kommun has 2000 cases, with a population of only about 73 thousand.
Hospitals in Västerbotten are not overburdened, however, and are being used to help reduce the stress on the health care systems of other areas of Norrland, officials said. Intensive care patients from Norrbotten, to Västerbotten’s north, have been sent to Västerbotten hospitals.
Officials also remarked today that during the coming holidays, access to coronavirus self-testing kits will be limited. “You should only get self-tested if you have symptoms for a 24 hour period, or if an infectious diseases specialist instructs you to,” said regional infection control doctor Stephan Stenmark.
Authorities are also emphasizing the urgency of limiting social contact during the holidays. “The most important thing,” said Stenmark, “is not to meet new people, and just spend time with a small circle of friends and family. This means Christmas will be different, with more outdoor activities and digital contact with loved ones.”
“This year’s Christmas present is caring!” added regional health director Brita Winsa. “The best Christmas present you can give your fellow human beings is to follow the advice, and keep in touch with loved ones in a safe way.” The region is making psychological support available to people feeling sad or alone during the holidays, via medical help telephone line 1177.se, as well as at local health centers.