‘We are disappointed and frustrated:’ Denmark’s reaction to reduced vaccine deliveries

Denmark's Minister of Health Magnus Heunicke has said in a written statement that he views the decline in Covid-19 vaccine deliveries from Pfizer / BioNTech as a serious concern.

'We are disappointed and frustrated:' Denmark's reaction to reduced vaccine deliveries
Pfizer vaccines at the new Covid-19 vaccination centre at Slagelse Hospital, on Thursday 7 January 2021. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix
US pharma group Pfizer warned on Friday that Covid-19 vaccine deliveries to Denmark and Europe would be reduced “as of next week” until the end of February as the company ramps up its production capacity.

The reason for the reduction is that production at the company's factory in Puurs, Belgium is to be upgraded, Pfizer Denmark told the national broadcaster DR.

READ ALSO: Pfizer warns reduction of Covid-19 vaccine deliveries in Denmark and across Europe

In a written comment, Denmark's Minister of Health Magnus Heunicke expressed the seriousness of the situation.

“We are in a race with coronavirus and the new more contagious virus variant. Therefore, we take the decline in deliveries very seriously.

“The government has therefore at the highest level activated all channels, including contact and dialogue with other EU member states and the EU Commission to secure Denmark's interests”, he says.

Director of the Statens Serum Institut, Henrik Ullum, also expressed his disappointed.

“This is really, really annoying news, which we are very disappointed and frustrated about.

“If this was a planned re-adjustment, why does it come so suddenly? We cannot understand that,” he told DR Nyheder.

According to the delivery plan from Pfizer, Denmark was to receive 59,475 doses next week. Pfizer has not yet confirmed how many vaccines will now be delivered, according to Statens Serum Institut (SSI).

Heunicke says that the health authorities are in the process of clarifying the scope and consequences of fewer vaccine deliveries.

In addition, work is underway to adapt the vaccination plan to the new information. According to the preliminary vaccine plan, all those living in Denmark who wish to do so will be fully vaccinated by 27 June.

READ ALSO: Why Denmark is leading EU in roll-out of Covid-19 vaccine

Six EU countries, including Denmark, have sent a letter to the European Commission expressing “serious concern” over the delay in the delivery of corona vaccines from Pfizer / BioNTech, according to news agency AFP who have seen the letter.

Health ministers from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden say in the letter that the situation is “unacceptable” and call on the European Commission to pressure Pfizer / BioNTech to “ensure stability and transparency in deliveries”.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday that she had spoken to Pfizer's CEO, Albert Bourla, following the announcement of delayed deliveries.

“He assured me that all the agreed doses for the first quarter will be delivered in the first quarter”, von der Leyen says.

She adds that Pfizer has promised that the company will try to reduce the delay as much as possible as well as make up for lost time as soon as possible.

The reduction is due to the fact that the factory in Puurs, Belgium, needs to be upgraded so that 2 billion doses can be produced per year compared to 1.3 billion before.

“This means that a significantly increased number of doses will be available for the countries from mid-February onwards”, Pfizer states.

The Pfizer vaccine has been used by Denmark since it commenced its vaccination programme on December 27th.

Vaccines from Moderna, the second producer to be approved for supply by the European Medicines Agency, began arriving in the country last week.

Latest figures show that Denmark has now administered 147,115 Covid-19 vaccinations, around 2.5 percent of the population.

Five Danes have received two doses of the vaccine and are now fully vaccinated according to daily vaccination figures from the Statens Serum Institut (SSI) on Saturday.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: How fast are European countries vaccinating their populations?



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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.”