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One last push: How Denmark is battling to get the last citizens vaccinated

Drop-in jabs, accosting people at test centres, pop-up vaccinations at schools and universities, and begging posts from the health minister: Denmark is doing all it can to encourage the last of its citizens to make time to get vaccinated.

One last push: How Denmark is battling to get the last citizens vaccinated
Søren Brostrøm, director of the Danish Health Authority, gives a jab at a drop-in vaccination centre in Aalborg. Photo: Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix

About 800,000 people in Denmark have received a call to get vaccinated, but have not yet booked a time to get their first jab, according to the latest statistics from the SSI infectious diseases agency. 

That represents about 16 percent, or just under a sixth, of the 5.11m people who have been invited, much more than the roughly five percent of the population who are opposed to receiving the vaccine. 

At the same time, there are now tens of thousands of unbooked vaccination slots, with Central Jutland telling TV2 on Friday that they had 38,000 slots free this week and 70,000 next week, and people are increasingly missing their booked times. 

We have experienced that in some centres, up to 20 citizens have been absent in one day. We have not experienced this before, Trine Holgersen, the region’s vaccination manager, told TV2

On Thursday, 55.6 percent of people in Denmark are fully vaccinated, while 72.3 percent have received their first jabs. 

But Søren Brostrøm, director of the Danish Health Authority, is not too worried. 

These are young people who have probably moved away from home, may not have started a family, and may not see coronavirus as the major risk factor, and we will try to reach them,” he told the Ritzau newswire.

Denmark does not, however, plan to follow the example of the town of Sonneberg in Germany, which is offering free Bratwurst sausages to those who get vaccinated. 

“I do not think it is necessary to give cream buns, draft beer, or cash to get people vaccinated, nor do I believe in demands,” Brostrøm said, saying he was confident Denmark could reach its target of 95 percent vaccination without such measures.  

Instead, he said, the authority planned to “give people a nudge” by sending a reminder to their e-boks digital mailbox. 

The authority also said on Wednesday that it wanted pop-up vaccination centres outside educational centres, such as schools and universities. 

Region Zealand already has plans for 30 pop-up vaccination centres at various higher education facilities, such University College Absalon, EUC Sjælland, and Zealand Business College.

Denmark’s Health Minister Magnus Heunicke on Tuesday exhorted those who hadn’t yet booked a jab to get out and do so in a post on his Facebook page. 

“We have quite a few citizens who really want to get vaccinated, but who for one reason or another haven’t done it yet. You are the ones I’m addressing,” he wrote. “Now that many are on their way back from vacation, it’s time for us to get it done.”

He also called on parents of children between the ages of 12 and 15, only 31 percent of whom have received their first dose, to book times for their children. 

Danish municipalities, meanwhile, are trying to make getting vaccinated as easy as possible, with drop-in schemes. 

The Copenhagen Capital Region on Thursday announced that it plans to offer drop-in vaccinations at all of its vaccination centres from August 16th, and is aiming to double its vaccination capacity at the start of September. 

“If we want to get through the autumn without a flare-up in infections, then it’s important that as many people as possible get offered vaccinations,” said the newly appointed regional council chairman Lars Gaardhøj in a statement.

A full 280,000 people in Copenhagen have been called in to be vaccinated but have yet to book a time. 

Elsewhere, people who come in to get tested are being diverted to vaccination centres. 

In Odense, Billedskærervej Test Centre has teamed up with the Athenevænget vaccination centre 5km away, asking those who come in to get tested whether they have yet arranged a date for vaccination, and if not trying to send them to get a drop-in jab then and there. 

Rachel Sander, deputy head nurse at the vaccination centre, said she had decided on the move after seeing a fall in the number of people coming in to get vaccinated. 

The vaccination rate in Denmark has slowed from as many as 40,000 a day at the start of June to between 10,000 to 20,000 a day at the end of July. 

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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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