Denmark pushes forward Covid-19 vaccines with increased gap between doses

The waiting time between receiving the first and second doses of the Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna in Denmark is to be increased from three to six weeks.

Denmark pushes forward Covid-19 vaccines with increased gap between doses
A Covid-19 vaccination centre in Denmark. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The decision will result in people who have not yet received a first dose of a vaccine being offered it a week earlier, according to the Danish Health Authority.

Increasing the gap between doses will mean more people receive their first dose sooner, giving higher immunity in the Danish population, the authority said,

“This means we can generally push forward the time for first-time vaccination by one week,” the agency informed broadcaster DR.

READ ALSO: When and how can foreign residents get the Covid-19 vaccine in Denmark?

The overall effect on the vaccination calendar, which currently has Denmark on schedule to finish vaccinating its population against Covid-19 by early August, was not confirmed by the authority to DR.

But the government has previously stated its aim to lift the majority of all coronavirus restrictions once everyone over the age of 50 (aside those who decline vaccination) has been inoculated.

In the latest version of the calendar, vaccination of the group covering this age begins on May 17th and is scheduled to end by July 4th.

In neighbouring Norway, the practice of extending the lag time between doses was introduced in early March. Norwegian health authorities are currently considering whether to extend the gap even further, to 12 weeks.

The United Kingdom, where almost 50 percent of the population have now received a first dose, has used a waiting time of up to 12 weeks between doses since December.

Pfizer recommends that the second dose be given no more than six weeks after the first, but a study has shown that a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine reduces the risk of hospitalisation with Covid-19 by 85 percent four weeks after receiving the dose.

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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.”