Published: April 2023
The surprising truth behind the Swedish “mortality miracle”.
Several studies and statistics appear to show that no-lockdown Sweden had one of the lowest pandemic excess mortality rates in the world. This fact has greatly delighted lockdown skeptics and seriously bothered lockdown proponents. It also has bothered vaccine skeptics, but delighted vaccine proponents, as Sweden has one of the highest mRNA vaccination rates in the world.
But as previously noted, the “official” Swedish excess mortality figures cannot be correct. This is because they are based on a standard linear extrapolation of the five-year mortality trend, which in the case of Sweden isn’t suitable, however: due to a baby bust 80 to 100 years ago, Sweden has experienced a long-term stepwise decline in its mortality rate in recent years:
The differences may seem small, but they lead to completely different assessments of the pandemic, lockdowns, and vaccines, as the following chart and description show:
- With a 2015-2019 average baseline (blue), Sweden had little excess mortality in 2020, and negative excess mortality in 2021 and 2022. The pandemic was a hoax, lockdowns killed.
- With a 2015-2019 linear trend baseline (gray), Sweden had substantial excess mortality in 2020, but no excess mortality in 2021 and 2022 – unlike most other Western countries.
- With a lower 2019 baseline (red), Sweden had strong excess mortality in 2020, lower excess mortality in 2021, and a bit more excess mortality in 2022 – like many Western countries.
Only this last scenario is consistent with reported covid deaths in Sweden, with the Swedish baby bust 80 to 100 years ago, and with the global picture: covid mortality in Sweden has been much closer to other Western European countries than to New Zealand, as the next chart shows:
Some covid skeptics have argued that the record low Swedish mortality in 2019, one year before the pandemic, was just an outlier and explained the high mortality in 2020 (the “dry tinder” theory). But this theory has never been plausible: higher Swedish mortality in 2020 was fully consistent with higher covid infection rates. Moreover, if 2019 had merely been a “mild year”, this would have been visible in neighboring Nordic countries, too – but it isn’t:
Another hypothesis was that Sweden had already achieved “herd immunity” after the first wave or by the end of 2020. But antibody studies showed that after the first wave, the infection rate at the national level was only 5%, and by December 2020, the infection rate in Stockholm was 30%.
Moreover, it should be noted that the median age in Sweden (41 years) is similar to the one in Britain (40.6) but markedly lower than in Austria (45), Italy (46), and Germany (48). Because covid lethality increases strongly with age, a difference in median age of about four years results in almost 50% additional excess deaths at the same infection rate and circumstances.
Thus, mortality data from no-lockdown Sweden has confused pretty much the entire world – with the exception of one guy: legendary Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. When asked by a British newspaper how he explained Sweden’s seemingly record low excess mortality, Tegnell merely stated that “excess death data can be tricky and needs more scrutiny”. Indeed.
As in many other Western countries, the strong decline in Swedish excess deaths from 2020 to 2021, despite multiple covid waves, was mostly due to the vaccination of senior citizens. The renewed increase in excess deaths in 2022 was mostly due to the vaccine-escaping but milder omicron variant: in fact, in many Western countries, 80% to 90% of covid infections occurred only in 2022/2023.
Figure: Mortality rates in Germany and Sweden.
In many countries, strong omicron waves and concurrent excess mortality among senior citizens continue even in 2023. These omicron waves are not visible in PCR data, as expensive PCR mass testing has been discontinued in most countries, but they are visible in the much more reliable wastewater data: consider the examples of the United States, Switzerland, and Germany.
Figure: Omicron waves in Berlin – PCR data (red) and wastewater data (blue):
Although omicron is milder on the lungs than previous variants, an omicron infection is still sufficient to kill elderly people, as first shown in Hong Kong in early 2022. Moreover, omicron is still able to displace other respiratory viruses and continues to mount multiple waves per year. It is possible that omicron variants will keep mortality among senior citizens elevated for many years to come.
Because of limited vaccine protection against omicron, even Sweden’s Nordic neighbors Denmark, Norway and Finland – which had rather mild pandemic policies but benefited from fortunate timing in the spring of 2020 and tight border controls thereafter – have lost some, but not all of their initial mortality advantage. This so-called “catch-up effect” has also been observed in East Asia.
What about vaccine deaths? Mortality in working-age people remains normal in most Western countries. Even in the United States, mortality in working-age people, which was elevated due to covid and record drug overdose deaths, seems to have “normalized” in 2023. In contrast, in England, mortality among working-age people seems to remain elevated (baseline: “week-specific trend”).
Nevertheless, vaccine manufacturers did suppress vaccine injuries and even probable vaccine deaths during their clinical trials in 2020. mRNA vaccines killed about one in 100,000 people (Qatar study), induced confirmed heart inflammation in about one in 1,000 young males, and caused several additional cardiovascular and neurological adverse events. Thus, the long-term health impact of diagnosed and of possibly “hidden” vaccine injuries should be monitored very closely.
Figure: Life expectancy, Sweden vs. USA. The US has been hit much harder by the pandemic than Western Europe due to higher obesity rates, lower vaccination rates, and higher non-covid mortality.
Sweden avoided lockdowns, face masks and other political interventions. Since these interventions were largely useless, Sweden experienced a pandemic excess mortality comparable to other Western European countries – but it didn’t experience a “mortality miracle” with record low excess deaths.
Covid vaccination of senior citizens was highly effective in 2021 against the alpha and delta variants, but less so in 2022 against omicron. Non-covid mortality levels remain normal in most Western countries, but the long-term health impact of covid vaccines should be monitored very closely.
Sweden largely avoided media-induced mass panic and showed that overall, a calm, patient-focused approach achieved the best results. In contrast, epidemiologically irrational strategies, such as “zero covid” and “no covid”, caused almost unprecedented social, political and economic damage.
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An analysis by Swiss Policy Research.
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The Swedish baby bust 80 to 100 years ago (blue line).