What next for Danish doses of vaccine after AstraZeneca withdrawal?

Denmark’s Covid-19 vaccination programme faces significant delays following the decision by health authorities to completely withdraw the AstraZeneca vaccine from use.

What next for Danish doses of vaccine after AstraZeneca withdrawal?
Photo: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

The Danish Health Authority and the State Serum Institute yesterday announced that Denmark will completely withdraw the AstraZeneca vaccine from its vaccination programme due to concerns over potential rare, but serious side effects.

Denmark is the only country in the world so far to take that decision.

The vaccination calendar has been pushed back as a result, with the lowest-priority groups now not expected to completely vaccination until late August.

The decision is already being questioned. Two conservative parties have called for the public to be able to decide themselves whether or not they want to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine if they are willing to accept any potential risk.

“It is important that we make use of the vaccines we have if there are Danes who wish to have an AstraZeneca vaccine. Amongst those who have received the first dose there are surely some people who want a second dose and thereby to complete their vaccination,” Conservative political spokesperson Mette Abildgaard told news wire Ritzau.

READ ALSO: Denmark to receive additional doses of Pfizer vaccine in second quarter

Two cases of blood clots, one of which was fatal, have been linked to AstraZeneca vaccinations in Denmark after more than 140,000 people received the jab made by the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker.

People who have received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Denmark will now be offered an alternative vaccine, the Danish Health Authority has confirmed.

However, there was no immediate need to re-vaccinate them, director Søren Brostrøm said.

“They were scheduled to be re-vaccinated after 12 weeks. Those 12 weeks have not yet passed. So it is not a question of them waiting for re-vaccination now,” Brostrøm said.

“That is partly because you get very good protection after the first injection (of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” he added.

Libertarian party Liberal Alliance has also called for citizens to be given the opportunity to choose whether they want the vaccine.

“Danes are adult, consenting people who are capable of taking this type of decision on an informed basis. This would give individual vaccinated people more freedom and society a faster route to reopening,” the party’s leader Alex Vanopslagh tweeted.

Combined with potential further delays involving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Abildgaard said that “we risk a situation in which we do not finish vaccinating Danes in 2021”.

Meanwhile, unions including the Danish Medical Association and FOA have called for a new plan for front line health care staff after the decision to withdraw AstraZeneca.

The vaccine was used extensively to inoculate health sector workers including doctors, nurses and social care workers. They are now left unsure as to when they will be vaccinated or receive a different vaccine, in the case of those who have already had their first dose.

“This is critical because many amongst our staff at workplaces have had their first injection and if there is a sudden outbreak again at care homes there will be a staff shortage in no time if we don’t ensure staff are vaccinated,” FOA union head Mona Striib told  Ritzau.

Plans already appear to be forming for Denmark’s AstraZeneca vaccines to be diverted to other countries.

Both Latvia and the Czech Republic have expressed their interest in purchasing Denmark’s AstraZeneca doses, while WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge told reporters that the Nordic country is examining options for sharing AstraZeneca’s vaccines with poorer nations, Reuters reported.

Member comments

  1. “Two conservative parties have called for the public to be able to decide themselves whether or not they want to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine if they are willing to accept any potential risk.”
    Yes for sure , I want my second AstraZeneca dose. Why is the Government forcing me to use another vaccine (eg Pfizer) as second dose? . That is surely MUCH riskier ? – there is no medical evidence I know of that mixing vaccine is recommended as being safe

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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.”