Denmark announces funding for clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccine

The Ministry of Health has allocated 18.8 million kroner for the testing of a potential coronavirus vaccine developed by Danish researchers.

Denmark announces funding for clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccine
A file photo showing an influenza vaccine being administered. Photo: Kristian Djurhuus/Ritzau Scanpix

A potential vaccine against Covid-19 developed by researchers at the country’s State Serum Institute (SSI) will be supported by state funding for “testing on people” the ministry said in a statement.

The vaccine has shown “promising results” in early development and testing stages, according to the ministry.

Up to 18.8 million kroner will therefore be made available for SSI to “prepare forthcoming clinical test phases of the candidate vaccine,” the statement reads.

“It is important that Denmark plays its part in development and research of vaccines against Covid-19, as this could potentially secure Denmark access to a broader range of vaccines,” health minister Magnus Heunicke said in the statement.

“This funding means that the first clinical test phases can be completed. Subsequently, the vaccine must be tested on a large scale if it has the potential to be approved,” Heunicke continued.

“But regardless of the outcome of the tests, development of a vaccine at SSI plays a part in improving our knowledge of Covid-19 and better equips us to develop future vaccines against future pandemics,” he said.

A large number of doses of the vaccine must be produced in order to carry out the first clinical trials, the ministry writes. Should good results be achieved in subsequent phases, the vaccine may go on to evaluation by the European Medicines Agency.

Should its effectiveness and safety be proved at this stage, it can be given approval for general use.

While work on a Danish vaccine candidate is therefore moving forward, it appears to be some way behind the stage of development of potential vaccines elsewhere.

On Monday, a vaccine jointly developed in the United States by Pfizer and BioNTech was 90 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 infections in Phase 3 trials, the companies announced in what was hailed as a “watershed moment” in the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Covid-19 cases 'explode' in Europe: Which countries are under lockdown or curfew?

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IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?

The number of new Covid-19 infections fell on Saturday for the second day in a row, following a three-day plateau at the start of last week. Has the omicron wave peaked?

IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?
Graffiti in the Copenhagen hippy enclave of Christiania complaining of Omicron's impact on Christmas. Photo: Philip Davali/Scanpix

How many cases, hospitalisations and deaths are there in Denmark? 

Denmark registered 12,588 new cases in the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, down from the 18,261 registered on in the day leading up to Friday at 2pm, which was itself a decline from the record 28,283 cases recorded on Wednesday. 

The cases were identified by a total of 174,517 PCR tests, bringing the positive percentage to 7.21 percent, down from the sky high rates of close to 12 percent seen in the first few days of January. 

The number of cases over the past seven days is lower than the week before in almost every municipality in Denmark, with only Vallensbæk, Aarhus, Holseterbro, Skanderborg, Hjørring, Vordingborg,  Ringkøbing, Kolding, Assens, Horsens, Thisted, and Langeland reporting rises. 

Hospitalisations have also started to fall, with some 730 patients being treated for Covid-10 on Saturday, down from 755 on Friday. On Tuesday, 794 were being treated for Covid-19 in Danish hospitals, the highest number since the peak of the 2020-21 winter wave.

The only marker which has not yet started to fall is the number of deaths, which tends to trail infections and hospitalisations. 

In the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, Denmark registered 28 deaths with Covid-19, the highest daily number recorded since 20 January 2021, when 29 people died with Covid-19 (although Denmark’s deadliest day was the 19 January 2021, when 39 people died). 

How does Denmark compare to other countries in Europe? 

Over the last seven days, Denmark has had the highest Covid-19 case rate of any country in Europe bar Ireland. The number of new infections in the country has climbed steadily since the start of December, apart from a brief fall over Christmas. 

So does this mean the omicron wave has peaked? 

Maybe, although experts are not sure. 

“Of course, you can hope for that, but I’m not sure that is the case,” said Christian Wejse, head of the Department for Infectious Diseases at Aarhus University Hospital. “I think it is too early to conclude that the epidemic has peaked.”

He said that patients with the Omicron variant were being discharged more rapidly on average than had been the case with those who had the more dangerous Delta variant. 

“Many admissions are relatively short-lived, thankfully. This is because many do not become that il, and are largely hospitalized because they are suffering with something else. And if they are stable and do not need oxygen, then they are quickly discharged again.” 

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said during a visit to an event held by the Social Liberal party that the latest numbers made her even more optimistic about the coming month. 

“We have lower infection numbers and the number of hospitalisations is also plateauing,” she said. “I think we’re going to get through this winter pretty well, even if it will be a difficult time for a lot of people, and we are beginning to see the spring ahead of us, so I’m actually very optimistic.” 

She said that she had been encouraged by the fact that Omicron was a “visibly less dangerous variant if it is not allowed to explode.”