Sweden’s COVID-19 vaccination program could begin as early as January, the health authority announced Thursday.

“First of all, the vaccine must go through the required reviews and be approved for use. Our assessment is that vaccination could begin as early as January,” said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.

Risk groups, people aged 70 and above, elderly caregivers, health professionals and other caregivers who work closely with risk groups will be prioritized in vaccination process.

“In Sweden, vaccination should be carried out in compliance with existing planning and approval procedures,” said Tegnell.

A total of 236,355 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Sweden so far, including 6,622 fatalities and 3,187 intensive care admissions, according to the Public Health Agency’s latest data released on Thursday.

Sweden was one of the few countries that did not introduce strict lockdown measures, and instead relied on public recommendations to stem the spread of the virus. But after seeing a new surge of cases, it announced restrictions.

Public gatherings are now capped at eight people.

Stricter general guidelines are also in force in different regions.

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