Swedish Professor Finds That COVID-19 Poses Low Threat to Children, Quits Research After People Send Him Nasty Messages

19-01-2017. ÖREBRO. Jonas F Ludvigsson, Forskaren som räknat ut att fredag 20 januari blir Sverige 10 miljoner invånare. Jonas F Ludvigsson, Pediatrician and professor of Clinical epidemiology Karolinska Institutet and Örebro University Hospital Foto: Gustav Mårtensson / KI

An epidemiology professor in Sweden has quit his COVID-19 research after he received hostile messages from people who didn’t like his conclusion that the disease poses a low threat to children.

Jonas Ludvigsson, a professor of clinical epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, focused on children ages 1 to 16 in the research he conducted last spring. He found that only 15 children ended up needing ICU treatment—only 0.77 per 100,000. Four of the 15 had a preexisting chronic condition and none of them died.

Ludvigsson said his study had been subject to several revisions and peer review before it was approved for publication. But he nevertheless received a deluge of nasty emails and social media messages from angry people, some of whom tried to blame him for Sweden’s comparatively lax approach to lockdowns.

As a result, the professor said he’s only managed a few hours of sleep per night. The attacks and the subsequent stress also caused him to lose his appetite for COVID-19 debate and research entirely. Ludvigsson is now trying to move on and put the bad experience behind him.

Matilda Ernkrans, Sweden’s higher education and research minister, told The British Medical Journal that “it is deeply concerning when academics are threatened to the extent that they don’t have the courage to keep on doing their job. This is not a new phenomenon, but we have seen an increase of threats against academics related to research on the coronavirus. When people are silenced, it’s a threat against the freedom of speech and our democracy.”

She added that “to strengthen academic freedom, the Swedish government has proposed a new amendment that points out that education and research must be protected to enable people to freely discover, research, and share knowledge.”

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