Denmark presents Covid-19 vaccination plan: first vaccines could be offered in December

Health officials have presented Denmark's plan to roll out vaccinations against Covid-19.

Denmark presents Covid-19 vaccination plan: first vaccines could be offered in December
Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

People in risk groups for serious illness with the virus will be given first priority once a coronavirus vaccination is available, officials confirmed.

The Danish Health Authority (Sundhedsstyrelsen) expects the country’s vaccination programme to commence at the beginning of 2021, with some optimism the very first vaccines could be given in December 2020, DR writes.

Those timescales are set out in a plan entitled Udrulning af vaccination mod Covid-19 (Rolling Out Vaccination Against Covid-19), published by the authority on Thursday.

According to the plan, vaccination will initially be offered to persons in specified risk groups and to selected key workers in the health, elderly and social care sectors.

No vaccine has been approved by the Danish Medicines Agency (Lægemiddelstyrelsen), but the country has pre-purchase agreements with five medical companies which are developing vaccines.

At least two candidates, from Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer, are nearing approval stage, according to international reports.

“In the most optimistic scenario, the first vaccines will be delivered to Denmark at the end of this year,” health minister Magnus Heunicke said at a press briefing on Thursday evening.

All residents in Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands will be offered a vaccine under the national vaccination plan, Heunicke said.

“If we receive the vaccine before Christmas, we will be ready to roll out the plan,” Danish Health Authority director Søren Brostrøm said at the briefing.

“If we get it a little later in 2021, we’ll be even more ready,” he added.

The plan presented by authorities on Thursday separates the vaccination programme into two main phases 1 and 2, which are further divided into two subsets, A and B.

During Phase 1A, described as the “limited vaccine supply” phase, people at risk of serious illness from Covid-19 infection will be offered the vaccine along with workers in the health and elderly care sectors and some social care staff.

In Phase 1B, supply is described as “extended vaccine supply for smaller groups”. Here, remaining people at risk of more serious illness with Covid-19 will be offered the vaccine, as will the same groups of key workers as in Phase 1A.

Additionally, people in “selected critical societal functions” may be offered the vaccine if it is available, according to the plan.

Phase 2A requires “vaccine supply for larger groups”. Here, “segmented” vaccination to the general population will become available in accordance with criteria such as age.

The final phase, 2B, will provide vaccines according to demand, with no limit on availability.

A time scale for the plan was estimated at “most of a year” by Danish Medicines Agency director Thomas Senderovitz.

In the meantime, social distancing requirements and other measures used to reduce virus spread will remain in place, Brostrøm said.

“The vaccine doesn’t remove everything. We will be maintaining our recommendations. Including for vaccinated people,” the health authority director said.

Locations currently used as Covid-19 test centres will initially be used as vaccination centres, he also said.

READ ALSO: Danish health ministry to develop Covid-19 'vaccine passport'

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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.”