He got inside the head of Sweden’s vaccine hunter

The hunt for the COVID-19 vaccine is the theme of the new book Vaccinjägaren (The Vaccine Hunter). It tells the story of Richard Bergström’s mission as Sweden’s national vaccine coordinator and the scheming that went on behind the scenes in Europe. Author and medical journalist Nils Bergeå co-wrote the book with Richard Bergström.

In late December 2019, the first reports appeared of the spread of a respiratory virus originating from Wuhan, China, and by March the following year, the pandemic was a reality. In June 2020, pharmacist Richard Bergström was appointed Vaccine Coordinator in Sweden. The assignment was to represent Sweden in the joint procurement of COVID-19 vaccines in the EU, and in the midst of it all, Nils Bergeå and Richard Bergström conceived the idea of writing a book.

“We got the idea independently of each other. Richard got the idea when he was writing the report for his investigation. He felt a need to include a bit more of the informal background, but his secretary of the governmental report said stop and told him to write it in his own book,” Nils Bergeå tells Life Science Sweden and continues:

“I was following the development in 2020 and 2021 when the vaccines started to arrive. My hypothesis was that there must be lots of exciting things worth telling about Richard’s mission.”

Later in the spring of 2021, Nils Bergeå contacted his friend Richard Bergström, and they started writing a book. Now two years later, it is finished and published.

“The book tells the story of how the EU and Sweden gained access to the COVID-19 vaccine from Richard’s perspective, and it is about the schemes behind the scenes of this EU collaboration where Richard played a key role,” says Nils Bergeå.

During this period, Richard Bergström was a member of the EU steering group, which included representatives from all EU countries, and also a member of a special negotiation group of seven people who negotiated directly with vaccine companies. The story of how he became part of the negotiation group is just one of the anecdotes that surprised Nils Bergeå.

“The idea was that this group would consist of six people from the six heaviest EU countries in terms of population, and Sweden was not invited. Nevertheless, he was absolutely determined to join in and managed to elbow his way into the group in a fascinating way.”

To write the book, Nils Bergeå interviewed Richard Bergström several times in Sweden, France and Switzerland, where he lives.

“It was like ghost-writing, as Richard speaks in the book. I had to get inside his head and try to put myself in his shoes when writing, which was challenging. He is a wonderful and extremely perceptive person, so I have had to sharpen my senses to keep up.”

Nils Bergeå

Education: Pharmacy degree and a postgraduate degree in journalism.

Professional experience: Editor-in-chief of the Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation’s magazine “Forskning för Hälsa” and previously editor-in-chief of “Svensk Farmaci”. He has previously written three books.

Currently: The book Vaccinjägaren (The Vaccine Hunter), written together with Richard Bergström, published on 17 April by Bazar Förlag.

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