Denmark reaches Covid vaccination landmark… but experts warn there’s a long way to go

As of Sunday, over 50 percent of the Danish population was fully vaccinated against Covid-19, the Ministry of Health said. But experts say there is a long way still to go.

Denmark reaches Covid vaccination landmark... but experts warn there's a long way to go
Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen receives her Covid-19 jab. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

Zealand, the capital region, leads the pack at a rate of 54.4 percent. Recent decisions have opened vaccinations to Danes 12-15 years of age (around a third of whom have already signed up for their jabs) as well as people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Over 2,939,901 residents are now protected from the coronavirus, according to Ministry of Health data. 

READ MORE:One in three children in Denmark accept Covid-19 vaccine invitation

While it’s a proud benchmark, there’s still substantial progress to be made before public health officials will feel comfortable. 

“We must ensure that 85 percent of the population is fully vaccinated against corona before the Autumn,” said Viggo Andreasen, an associate professor at Roskilde University and researcher on mathematical epidemiology. “It cannot completely give us herd immunity to the Delta variant – it’s so contagious.” 

“But it will be able to prevent major epidemics,” Andreasen added. 

Sunday was the eighth consecutive day without a Covid-related death in Denmark. Across the country, 59 people are hospitalised with the virus, 10 of whom are in intensive care and six on respirators. 

READ MORE: Denmark to change Covid-19 vaccination guidelines for pregnant and breastfeeding women

As of July 24th, Denmark leads many countries – including neighbors Germany and Sweden – in partial and full vaccination rates.
Who remains to be vaccinated? 
Over 60 percent of Danish residents over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated, according to the Ministry of Health. But younger Danes, and particularly men, lag behind significantly – only 12.9 percent of men aged 30-39 and 18 percent of 20-29-year-old men are fully vaccinated, based on data from Staten Serum Insitute, the Danish infectious disease agency. Women in those age groups fare slightly better, at 16.7 and 23 percent, respectively. 
These demographics are key to slowing the spread of the Delta variant since 56.8 percent of all new infections over the past several days were in people ages 20-39, the data from SSI’s Covid-19 infection dashboard show. 
Since they became eligible for vaccines in mid-July, about one out of every eight children between the ages of 12 and 15 has received their first jab of the Pfizer vaccine, the only shot approved for use in children. As the two Pfizer doses must be given several weeks apart, none in that age bracket are yet fully vaccinated. 

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Covid-19: Denmark expects to bring updated jab into vaccination programme

An updated version of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, tabled by the European Medical Agency (EMA) for EU approval, is likely to be used in Denmark.

Covid-19: Denmark expects to bring updated jab into vaccination programme

The Danish Health Authority said that it expects the vaccine, which has been updated to protect against the currently dominant variant of the coronavirus, will be used in the autumn vaccination programme.

“We now have several variant-updated vaccines which we expect to give both better and broader protection against serious illness and death,” the deputy director of the Danish Health Auhtority, Helene Bilsted Probst, said in a press statement.

“We expect that the updated vaccine will give at least as good protection as the already-approved BA1-updated vaccine, and it could possibly be a little better,” she said.

The Health Authority is expected to make a decision in the near future on how doses of the latest update will be integrated into the existing vaccine programme.

Denmark’s autumn Covid-19 vaccination programme is scheduled to begin on September 15th, when care home residents and people aged 85 and over will be invited for a booster vaccine.

From October 1st, everyone aged 50 and over will be offered vaccination.

“Everyone who will be vaccinated in the autumn vaccination programme will be vaccinated with the variant-updated vaccine, and we will continuously assess how best to use it,” Probst said in the statement.

Other groups for which vaccination is recommended include those who are pregnant, work in the health and elderly care sectors, or are at heightened risk of serious illness.

Denmark took delivery of 720,000 Pfizer vaccines late last week and has secured a total of 4.5 million doses that will be delivered this month.

Probst stated that timely vaccination was important in reducing the likelihood of serious illness.

“So we need to get started so we can keep ahead of the virus,” she said.