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VACCINE

Denmark extends pause of AstraZeneca vaccine for three weeks

Denmark on Thursday extended its suspension of the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, saying it had not ruled out a link to blood clots even though the European regulator has deemed it safe.

Denmark extends pause of AstraZeneca vaccine for three weeks
Director of the Danish Health Authority Søren Brostrøm. Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark was the first country to suspend use of the AstraZeneca jab in mid-March, a decision then followed by more than a dozen other mostly European countries, after reports of blood clots potentially linked to the vaccine.

“We have today decided to extend our pause for another three weeks (until April 18th),” director of the Danish Health Authority Søren Brostrøm told a press conference.

“We have discussed this with domestic experts, who still believe that concerns remain. That’s why we are sticking with the pause,” Brostrøm said.

Causing most concern is a combination of blood clots, haemorrhaging and low blood platelet levels that was rare but occasionally fatal.

The World Health Organization has urged countries to continue administering the vaccine, arguing the benefits outweigh the risks.

EU drugs regulator EMA last week said the vaccine was “safe and effective” and not linked to a higher risk of blood clots, but could not “rule out definitively” its role in the rare clotting disorder.

Numerous European countries subsequently lifted their suspensions, while the Nordic nations maintained theirs pending further checks.

“We are not going against the EMA’s decision, we are building upon it and going further,” Brostrøm said.

Brostrøm added that they would continue to investigate whether certain groups were subject to particular risk, how high that risk was and whether it was acceptable.

Finland and Iceland resumed inoculations using the jab this week, but only for seniors.

Sweden was due to announce its decision later Thursday, and a Norwegian decision was expected on Friday.

Denmark, a country of 5.8 million people, has recorded a total of 227,894 cases of Covid-19 and 2,405 associated deaths.

The AstraZeneca suspension has slowed the country’s ambitious vaccination rollout, with 5.7 percent of the population fully vaccinated and a first dose administered to 11.1 percent.

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COVID-19

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.” 

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