Denmark to recommend AstraZeneca vaccine for under-65s only

The Danish Health Authority has said it will recommend the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine against Covid-19 be given to people under the age of 65 who are not at risk of serious illness due to the virus.

Denmark to recommend AstraZeneca vaccine for under-65s only
Photo: Pool/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark has so far used vaccines from two other suppliers, Pfizer and Moderna, with the first deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was recently approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), expected next week.

But it will not be recommended for older people in Denmark, with the country’s health authority citing a lack of documentation as to its efficacy for the group.

The Danish Health Authority will therefore generally recommend that the AstraZeneca vaccine be given to people under the age of 65 who are not at risk of serious illness due to the virus, the authority said in a statement.

“We have reviewed the documentation and until we have seen more data on the effect amongst older people, our recommendation is that the vaccine from AstraZeneca first and foremost should be an offer for people under 65 years without increased risk of a serious outcome from Covid-19,” Danish Health Authority departmental director Bolette Søborg said in the statement.

Although the vaccine has been approved by the EMA for everyone over 18 years old, the agency said there is not sufficient documentation of its benefits for people over the age of 55.

That is because there is not yet enough data available to assess the effect of the vaccine within the specified age group, the EMA has said.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was approved with a documented effectiveness of around 60 percent.

Although there were cases of coronavirus amongst vaccinated participants in clinical trials of the vaccine, there were no serious illnesses or hospitalisations amongst those persons.

READ ALSO: Denmark to introduce 'digital passport' to document Covid-19 vaccination

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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.”