AstraZeneca: Voluntary vaccination in Denmark possible but complicated

Denmark’s national health authority has said that the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 could be offered to members of the public outside of the country's regular vaccination programme, but the pathway to such an arrangement is complicated.

AstraZeneca: Voluntary vaccination in Denmark possible but complicated
Photo:Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

The Danish Health Authority has found that voluntary inoculation with the AstraZeneca vaccine could be offered to individuals following its withdrawal from general use last week, but a number of issues must first be clarified.

Health minister Magnus Heunicke last week asked the Danish Health Authority to submit an outline for how the country’s shelved AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines can be given to individuals who consent to take it.

That outline has now been submitted.

According to the outline, Denmark is currently in possession of 270,000 unused doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, and can still expect to receive a further 325,000 in May.

“The overall assessment of the Danish Health Authority is that it would be possible to establish an option whereby members of the public who wish to do so can choose to be vaccinated with Vaxzevria [AstraZeneca vaccine, ed.] outside of the mass vaccination programme via concrete and specific medical prescription,” the authority wrote in the response submitted to parliament.

However, it would take “several weeks” to clarify a number of issues, with the benefits of such an arrangement receding over that time as the general vaccination programme moves forward, the authority found.

The Health Authority did not find such a scheme would have “major significance for epidemic control,” it said.

Among potential obstacles in allowing GPs to give the vaccine outside of the general programme would be the need for individual assessments and patient interviews as part of the decision making process to vaccinate according to individual wishes.

Additionally, the vaccines are supplied in batches of 100, and must be administered within 48 hours at the same location, making their use at individual GP’s clinics impractical.

A new system would also be required for doctors to be able to individually register vaccinations and any side effects reported by patients.

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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.”