Denmark to give booster Covid vaccines to those with ‘weakened immune systems’

The Danish Health Authority has published a list of which citizens will be prioritised for a third, booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine, with some 50,000 people likely to be eligible.

Denmark to give booster Covid vaccines to those with 'weakened immune systems'
Those receiving regular dialysis will be among those who will be contacted for third doses in the next few week. Photo: Anna Frodesiak/Wikimedia Commons

In a press release issued on Monday, the Danish Health Authority said that those in the categories chosen would receive an invitation in the e-Boks digital postbox in the same way as they had for their first and second doses. 

“The vast majority of people with a weakened immune system are expected to be well protected against a serious course of Covid-19 when they have been vaccinated,” Helene Probst, the authority’s deputy director said in the release. 

“However, people with a severely weakened immune system have a very reduced or no effect of the vaccine. Therefore, they will now be offered a third dose to boost their immune response and thus protect them from a serious infection with Covid-19.” 

She said that all of the patients concerned would already be undergoing long-term treatment and so be in contact with a hospital department, who would then recommend them for another jab. 

The patients eligible are primarily: 

  • patients with certain types of malignant blood and bone marrow diseases
  • patients who have had organ transplants,
  • patients on dialysis
  • patients who have been treated with special immunosuppressive drugs
  • patients who have received chemotherapy during 2021 

“We have made a detailed list of exactly which citizens are covered by the new offer, so hopefully the vast majority of citizens can see for themselves whether they are covered,” Probst said. 

She said that no one should contact their local GP over receiving a third dose, although she said those being treated by specialists for any of the conditions covered should contact their hospital doctor if they do not receive an invite within “a few weeks”, and should also bring it up next time they come in for a check-up or treatment.

She said the vaccinations would take place at existing treatment centres across Denmark. 

“The vaccination itself will take place in the vaccination centres, where you will be vaccinated with a 3rd dose mRNA vaccine from either BioNTec-Pfizer or Moderna,” she said.

No one will be given a third dose until at least a month after their second dose, and ideally not more than none months after it. 

The authority is still considering whether elderly people in Denmark who were vaccinated in January and February should also receive a third dose, but said it would not give third doses on this scale until one or more of the vaccines was approved for a third dose by the European Medicines Agency. 

The authority has published a detailed set of guidelines laying out which patients should get a third dose. 

They include these conditions: 

  • acute leukemia or chronic myelomonocytic leukemia
  • myelodysplastic syndrome
  • myelomatosis
  • Lymphoma
  • myelofibrosis
  • aplastic anemia
  • T-cell Large granular lymphocytic leukemia 
  • recipients of allogeneic bone marrow transplants 
  • primary immunodeficiency
  • HIV infection with pronounced immune deficiency (CD4 < 200)
  • cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy in 2021
  • patients who have had organ transplants, bone marrow transplants, stem cell transplants, and artificial heart pumps
  • those undergoing Hemodialysis or peritonealdialysis 

It also includes people taking the following medications: 

  • Rituximab
  • Ocrelizumab
  • Alemtuzumab
  • ATG
  • Ciclosporin
  • Tacrolimus
  • Mycophenolate
  • Immunglobulin substitution
  • Sphingosin-1-phosphat receptor inhibitor 

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Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.