Denmark to expand Covid-19 vaccination program by delaying second dose

Danish health officials said Monday the country would space out the two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine by up to six weeks, allowing more people to receive a first injection.

Denmark to expand Covid-19 vaccination program by delaying second dose
A man receives a Covid-19 vaccination in Odense on Monday. Photo: Tim Kildeborg Jensen/Ritzau Scanpix

The new recommendations are both for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which the country has already started administering, and the vaccine candidate developed by Moderna which is in the process of being approved by the EU.

“So far we have said that there should be three to four weeks between each injection, but you can easily wait up to six weeks,” director of the Danish Health Authority Søren Brostrøm told broadcaster TV2.

The amended guideline follows the announcement by the UK to extend the interval between the two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines used in Britain by up to 12 weeks.

“This way, we will be able to vaccinate more people now,” Brostrøm added, stressing that the guidelines were based on documentation submitted by laboratories.

In the country of 5.8 million people, nearly 47,000 people, including Queen Margrethe II, have received a first dose of the vaccine since the immunisation campaign began on December 27th.


Initially, the country plans to vaccinate residents of retirement homes, then the vulnerable over 65s and frontline healthcare workers.

In late December, to curb a rise in cases and hospitalisations, Denmark extended a slew of restrictive measures until January 17th.

These include the closure of shops, except for pharmacies and food shops, as well as schools and universities, cultural venues, bars, cafes and restaurants — except for take-away meals.

Since the start of the pandemic, Denmark has recorded 171,434 cases and 1,389 deaths, but the country also worried about cases of the new variant of the virus recently discovered in the UK, which according to the British authorities is up to 74 percent more contagious.

“In short, it requires us to do even more to keep the infection under control,” Denmark's health minister Magnus Heunicke said in a post on Facebook.


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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.”