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COVID-19 VACCINES

Denmark to give third vaccine jab to people with weakened immune systems

The Danish Health Authority is to issue guidelines for which citizens should be given third vaccine jabs to ensure that they have sufficient protection from coronavirus.

Denmark to give third vaccine jab to people with weakened immune systems
Will residents of elderly care homes like Carl-Einar Jørgensen need another jab before Christmas? Photo: Nils Meilvang/Ritzau Scanpix

In an email to the Ritzau news agency, Helene Probst, the authority’s deputy director, said that the first in line would be seriously ill patients whose immune systems have been weakened. 

“It will be patients with very weakened immune systems who have therefore not had such a good effect of the vaccine,” she wrote. “That would typically be cancer patients who have received chemotherapy, or people who have received organ transplants, or patients with immune diseases.” 

The next in line would be residents of elderly care homes, but only if there were signs that the immunity they had gained from the vaccinations given in January and February was starting to wane. 

“We don’t yet have enough knowledge to be able to say where there is a need to give a third dose because the vaccinations are no longer having such a good effect,” Probst said. “But we will not hesitate to recommend a third dose if it turns out that there is falling immunity among those who have been vaccinated.” 

Germany is considering giving all citizens a third dose, several Swiss cantons are already giving booster shots, and France plans to start giving booster doses from next month.

In the US, citizens with weakened immune systems are already being offered third jabs, 

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Probst said that her authority was following what was happening in Germany, the US, and other countries very closely, and was also carefully monitoring the number of fully vaccinated people being admitted to hospital in Denmark, to see if there are any signs of dwindling immunity. 

“We have an enormously high level of support for vaccines, not least in the vulnerable groups and among health and care staff. At the same time, we have primarily used the best and most effective mRNA vaccines, which have a real effect,” she said.

“Some vaccines last a lifetime, some last for a number of years, and some require a jab once a year. We need to know how long the vaccines work before we can take that decision.” 

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COVID-19 VACCINES

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.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s health authority scraps isolation guidelines for Covid-19

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