Follow ‘the science’? Anders Tegnell’s and Swedish Public Health Agency’s face mask evidence
Melinda C. Mills, Evelina T. Akimova, Sofia Gieysztor and Jan O. Jonsson
Read the full article and transparent evaluation of the evidence here: https://osf.io/p3d7c/
Sweden is one of the few countries in the world that has not advised the public to wear face masks or coverings during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The central arguments appeared to be that the evidence in favour of wearing face coverings was inconclusive and provided false confidence, which could result in riskier behaviour and undermine social distancing. It was in many ways a return to debates around the introduction of seat belts and cycle helmets – arguing that they will lead to a false sense of security.
On October 20, Anders Tegnell said on a prominent BBC4 radio Today programme, that face coverings for the general public were not only unnecessary but dangerous. His statement was left unchallenged by the presenter. We became curious about what evidence Tegnell and Sweden was relying on to make such a bold statement. Fortunately and rather unusually, the Swedish health authorities, probed by mass media, has provided a list of the literature that they rely on for their face mask evidence.
Our evaluation of these studies was extensively discussed on Swedish National Television TV4 on Monday November 16 2020 in a feature by journalist Anneli Megner Arn, followed by additional coverage by the Swedish media in the Aftonbladet and Omni. Tegnell responded in the media that our method of counting positive versus negative results was unsound. The only way to solve this problem is to transparently publish how we came to this conclusion and our grading of the studies. You be the judge.
Evaluating the 36 studies that the Swedish Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten) use as scientific evidence to support their face covering policy, our four different coders of the data find that over 72% of these studies support and recommend the use of face coverings. Of the ones that do not, the reason is insufficient evidence or research not directly related to advice.
72.2% of the scientific evidence that Anders Tegnell and the Swedish Public Health Authority uses as a basis for their scientific evidence against recommending face masks actually supports or recommends the use of face masks.
In our article, we provide the details and reasoning behind our coding of these studies to promote transparency and further debate. We conclude with a reflection of the limitations within this area of research and extreme challenges for public policy-makers to draw conclusions from a complex and changing evidence base.
Read the full article: Mills, M., Akimova, E., Gieysztor, S. & J. Jonsson (2020, November 20). Follow “the science”? Anders Tegnell’s and Swedish Public Health Agency’s evidence is in favour of recommending face coverings. https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/P3D7C