Denmark holds off on resuming use of AstraZeneca vaccine

Danish health authorities say they will hold off for now on resuming use of the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19, despite an all-clear from the European medical regulator EMA.

Denmark holds off on resuming use of AstraZeneca vaccine
Head of the Danish Health Authority, Søren Brostrøm. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

“Our decision to put vaccination with the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca on hold until week 12 (March 22nd-28th) remains in effect,” the head of the Danish Health Authority, Søren Brostrøm, said in a statement late Thursday.

“In the coming days, the Danish Health Authority and the Danish Medicines Agency will assess the impact of EMA’s review of the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca on the Danish vaccination programme,” he added.

“We work on a principle of caution. Our assessment is that we need to dig deeper into this matter because we need to understand the side effects better,” Brostrøm said at a briefing on Friday.

“This is a very unusual picture, and one possible explanation is an immune response,” he also said.

That may have been a reference to conclusions announced on Thursday by a group of Norwegian medical experts at Oslo University Hospital, who said that blood clots in three health workers who took the AstraZeneca vaccine were triggered by an immune system response.

The Danish Health Authority will make a new statement on Thursday next week as to whether the country will resume use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Brostrøm said at Friday’s briefing that this would include clarification on whether the vaccine no longer be used at all, return to normal use or be used with new conditions in place.

In the latter case, that could involve restricting it to certain age groups or only using it in controlled conditions.

Last week, Denmark was the first country to suspend use of the AstraZeneca jab, a decision then followed by more than a dozen other mostly European countries.

The Health Authority has noted that even though the EMA emphasised the benefits of the vaccine and called it “safe and effective,” the Amsterdam-based agency had said it “cannot rule out that there is a link between the few known cases of rare but severe blood clots and vaccination with the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca.”

The Scandinavian country is currently investigating 10 cases, including one fatality, where blood clots or blood clot symptoms arose after more than 140,000 people received the jab made by the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker.

Sweden, Norway and Iceland have all suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine due to the risk of blood clots.

Sweden and Norway have also said they will wait before resuming its use as they investigate further, while Iceland has yet to announce its decision.

Member comments

  1. It never ceases to amaze me when Denmark believes it is smarter than the rest of the world. The delay in resuming use of the AstraZeneca jab is a huge disappointment now that another wave of CV19 cases is hitting Germany and other countries.

    1. I agree completely. Continental Europe, including Denmark, have made a poor decision in delaying using the AZ vaccine. Covid cases are rising fast in most European countries and delaying the vaccine for the ridiculous blood clot scare is going to end up with more delays in the vaccine programme.

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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.”