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Top Swedish scientific expert behind unique model appointed to senior WHO position

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One of the scientific guru’s behind Sweden’s “herd immunity” strategy for managing the COVID-19 pandemic has been promoted by the World Health Organization. Mr Johan Giesecke has been promoted into a senior advisory position as vice-chair of the Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards at the WHO. 

Mr Giesecke was voted into his new position which has since been ratified by the WHO. UNN’s Oliver Down understands that in this role, Giesecke will advise the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on pandemic response strategy.

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Giesecke was Sweden’s state epidemiologist between 1995 and 2005. He is understood to be a mentor to the current man in post Anders Tegnell. Emails emerged in August between the two men from March which showed they were discussing herd immunity then as a measure to limit the spread of the virus in Sweden. 

One email from Giesecke at that time said: “I believe [that] the virus is going to sweep like a storm over Sweden and infect basically everyone in one or two months…I believe that thousands are already infected in Sweden… it will all come to an end when so many have been infected and become therefore immune that the virus has nowhere else to go (so-called herd immunity)”.

Whilst writing in The Lancet in May, Giesecke said: “There is very little we can do to prevent this spread: a lockdown might delay severe cases for a while, but once restrictions are eased, cases will reappear. I expect that when we count the number of deaths from COVID-19 in each country in one year from now, the figures will be similar, regardless of measures taken”.

Speaking about his new role at WHO Giesecke has denied that his appointment is a “political statement”. He also said: “You should wait one year or maybe five years before comparing strategies. We still have a long way to go in this pandemic”. 

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