Vaccination, it’s almost worse than saying a swear word in the USA. There is such a huge debate going on about whether or not you should vaccinate your children in the US right now, unfortunately I think it comes from the fact that the healthcare industry over there is for profit. The fact that so many companies capitalize on people being sick rather than actually trying to make them better doesn’t help the cause. I have only lived in Sweden for a year, but having a baby over here and seeing how they vaccinate first-hand gives me a bit more insight. I am by no means an expert on this topic, so please do not take my observation as science.
Despite being able to compare the vaccination schedules in these two countries, it is not comparing apples to apples. There are a few factors that come in to play; the number one being the population size, followed by demographics. Sweden’s 2015 population according to Wikipedia is 9,737,455 whereas US’s 2015 population is 320,386,661. I’ve noticed there are a lot of things that may work in Sweden simply due to a more “manageable population”, but that’s a topic for another post. The US has a more diverse population than Sweden and it seems that the vaccination schedule takes that into account. Sweden is mainly populated by indigenous Swedes (although that is currently changing due to an influx of immigration due to refugee migration), the USA on the other hand is referred to as a melting pot since the only indigenous Americans would be the Native Americans who were not vaccinated against the Europeans that brought over their diseases, and we all know what happened then.
Getting our 2nd daughter vaccinated in Sweden wasn’t a debate or even a question, we just did it. When you take your child for their “well visits” you don’t see the doctor every time, there are only a handful of appointments where the doctor is present. The person you go to is called a barnmorska (midwife), you can make appointments to see a doctor but it is not as common in Sweden as the US. When we had our first appointment, the barnmorska came to our house when our baby was 1 week old, and at that point she gave us a little booklet that we use to record the measurements, vaccinations, etc. for each appointment. We did not have a discussion of whether or not we were planning on following the vaccination schedule. The last well visit we went to, it was advised that our 8 month old daughter should get vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella if we plan on going overseas since there is a recent outbreak. They don’t usually vaccinate for that over here until the child is 15-18 months, but if there is risk of exposure, a baby can be vaccinated for MMR starting as early as 6 months.
I created this Vaccination Table in excel from the ECDC here comparing vaccinations in the UK and Sweden, and added the US vaccination schedule from the CDC here, and my own shot record from the Michigan Department of Public Health from when I was vaccinated in the 1980s. My mother told me when I was a baby they didn’t have as many vaccinations recommended, but times and medicine have evolved, for good or bad (I haven’t concluded yet). The UK’s recommendations are very similar to that of the US; Sweden’s recommendations don’t seem as aggressive, and start vaccinating at 3 months instead of between birth and 2 months. Again, this all comes down to population and demographics to me, it’s not as simple as looking at the vaccination schedule and saying, “Look, their schedule is different/better than ours”. It’s up to us as parents to choose whether or not to vaccinate our children – just make sure you’re comfortable with the pros and cons of the choice you make. We all just want our babies to be happy, healthy, and safe.