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: Danish research finds improved protection from updated vaccine

Denmark’s infectious disease control agency State Serum Institute (SSI) says that a second booster or “fourth dose” with an updated form of the Covid-19 vaccine will significantly improve protection against the virus.

Covid-19: Danish research finds improved protection from updated vaccine

The fourth dose will offer markedly better protection than if a person has only received a “third” dose or single booster jab, SSI said in a press statement.

SSI researchers, working with colleagues from the other Nordic countries, have analysed the effect of the additional booster jab with the vaccine, which has been updated in line with newer dominant subvariants of the coronavirus.

When the Danish population was first vaccinated against Covid-19, the vaccines were designed to offer protection against the original form of the virus, SSI writes.

But newer variants have made the original vaccines less effective. The updated vaccines are designed to have the best possible effect against both the original variant as well as the Omicron variant.

There are currently two versions of the updated vaccine. One is adapted towards the BA.1 Omicron subvariant, with another adapted to the BA.4-5 subvariant.

In the Nordic countries, the updated vaccines were offered during autumn 2022 to all persons over the age of 50 in Denmark and Sweden, over 60 in Finland and over 65 in Norway.

A fourth dose with the BA.1-updated version reduced the risk of hospitalisation with Covid-19 by 74 percent and the risk of death by 80 percent compared to the third dose, SSI found.

The BA.4-5 updated version reduced the risk of hospitalisation by 81 percent and the risk of death by 78 percent.

The latter of the two updated versions (BA.4-5) was found to reduce the risk of hospitalisation with Covid-19 by 32 percent compared to the BA-1 version.

“This is maybe not so surprising because BA.4-5 subvariants were dominant in autumn 2022,” SSI head of department Anders Hviid said in the statement.

“But I think we are among the first [countries] to be able to measure this based on the large quantities of data we have available from working across four countries,” he said.

The research was supported by the EU’s European Medicines Agency (EMA).

SSI notes that the frequency of hospitalisation and particularly death due to Covid-19 was very low after both the third and fourth doses of the vaccine.

The academic paper resulting from the study can be read in English here.

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