Private Danish company gets permission to vaccinate with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs

People in Denmark can now register for medical consultation with a view to being given a Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson outside of the country’s national vaccination programme.

Private Danish company gets permission to vaccinate with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs
Denmark now allows private company Practio to dispense Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.Photo: Henry Nicholls/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

The Central Jutland administrative region for healthcare signed an agreement with the company, Practio, on Friday, the Ministry of Health confirmed in a statement. The agreement was made on behalf of all Danish regions.

The vaccines from the two companies have both been withdrawn by Danish health authorities from the national vaccination programme because a very small risk of serious side effects combined with the stable situation of the Covid-19 pandemic in Denmark reducing the urgency to use them, health authorities previously said.

Only the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are in general use in Denmark, which currently expects to complete vaccination of its population by the end of August.

Earlier this week, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke signed an order allowing the two scrapped vaccines to be distributed by private companies under an informed consent system.

People interesting in receiving one of the vaccines must first attend a medical consultation with a doctor, who can choose not to allow them to proceed with vaccination and instead wait to be invited for vaccination under the national programme.

The company will begin its first medical consultations on Saturday, Practio doctor and co-founder Anders Nilsen confirmed.

“After this, the doctor and member of the public will decide whether it’s right for them to be given a vaccine via the elective system, and if the doctor concurs, they can arrange this,” Nilsen said.

A preference for either of the two vaccines can be taken into account as part of the assessment.

The first vaccinations under the scheme are expected to be given in Copenhagen next week, with centres also on the way elsewhere in Denmark.

Heunicke gave his backing to the new system for the two vaccines.

“I’m very satisfied that we now have the formalities in place so that the first jabs with the scheme can be given next week,” the minister said in the Ministry of Health statement.

According to Practio, 20,000 people have already registered for the scheme as of Friday. Registration does not confer obligation to take a vaccine.

On Wednesday, Denmark gave around 50,000 vaccines with the Pfizer and Moderna jabs under the general vaccination programme.

The Danish College of General Practitioners has stated its opposition to the arrangement.

“There are still no criteria that can be used to find out who is suitable for the vaccine – you cannot give informed consent,” said the professional body’s chairperson, Anders Beich.

The Danish Medical Association took a similar stance but is not advising its members not to take part in provision of consultations.

“We still find it difficult to see how the new guidance helps individual doctors to conduct a concrete individual assessment,” said chairperson Camilla Noelle Rathcke.


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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.”