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VACCINE

Denmark to consider individual choice over AstraZeneca vaccine

The Danish government has said it is prepared to listen to suggestions the country’s shelved AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines can be given to individuals who consent to take it.

Denmark to consider individual choice over AstraZeneca vaccine
Danish health minister Magnus Heunicke. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

Health minister Magnus Heunicke has said the government will look at proposals as to how such an arrangement might work. Authorities announced this week that the AstraZeneca jab is to be completely withdrawn from Denmark’s Covid-19 vaccination programme due to concerns over potential rare, but serious side effects.

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Around 150,000 people in Denmark have received their first injection with the vaccine. Two doses are required to reach maximum immunity.

“I have summoned the (political) parties for a meeting about vaccines and the Danish vaccine strategy. And we have asked the Danish Health Authority to submit an outline of how this might look if it was a decision we took politically,” Heunicke said.

That outline is expected to be ready on Monday, news wire Ritzau reports.

Two conservative parties previously 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 said.

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.

Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, leader of the Liberal party, has said he would take the AstraZeneca vaccine himself.

But other parties, including the left-wing Red Green Alliance and right-wing Danish People’s Party, have expressed scepticism over the idea because it could go against health authority recommendations.

“I place a lot of weight on there not being a great deal of political disagreement” on the matter, Heunicke said.

The government is yet to confirm its plans for the approximately 200,000 AstraZeneca vaccines currently in storage in Denmark.

The vaccine is still officially approved for use in Denmark but has been withdrawn from the Covid-19 vaccination calendar. A lack of clarity also exists as to liability in the case of serious side effects, and how compensation would be given.

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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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