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Swedish professor quits COVID-19 research amid hostility over his findings

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A Swedish professor of epidemiology has quit researching COVID-19 after facing fierce backlash over his findings that the illness poses a low threat to children – undermining the political argument that schools can’t reopen.

Jonas Ludvigsson, a professor of clinical epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute, said he has lost sleep as a result of the “angry messages through social media and email” assailing his study and partly blaming him for Sweden’s contrarian COVID-19 strategy, The College Fix reported.

His research focused on children aged 1 to 16 during the first wave of the pandemic last spring, including those with “laboratory-verified or clinically verified COVID-19, including patients who were admitted for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children” because it’s “likely” related to the bug.

Only 15 children went to the ICU — a rate of 0.77 per 100,000, according to the report. Four had “an underlying chronic coexisting condition” and none died.

As far as teachers, “fewer than” 30 ended up in the ICU during the same period – a rate of about 19 per 100,000.

Ludvigsson also noted that children weren’t wearing face masks, while the rest of Swedish citizens were simply “encouraged” to practice social distancing.

Jonas Ludvigsson
Jonas Ludvigsson’s research focused on children aged 1 to 16 during the first wave of the pandemic last spring
Karolinska Institute

Now, due to the backlash Ludvigsson faced over his research, Sweden plans to boost academic freedom protections in law, according to The College Fix.

Higher education minister Matilda Ernkrans told The British Medical Journal that the government is planning to amend the Higher Education Act to ensure “that education and research must be protected to enable people to freely discover, research and share knowledge.”

Karolinska Institute President Ole Petter Ottersen told the journal that “hateful and scornful accusations and personal attacks cannot be tolerated,” whether against the pediatrician or other researchers who have “retreat[ed] from the public debate after being threatened or harassed.”

Ludvigsson said his letter to the editor, which was published in the Feb. 18 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, had gone through several revisions and “formal external peer review,” including statistically.

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