Will Denmark vaccinate children aged 5-11 against Covid-19?

Denmark is likely to address whether to offer Covid-19 vaccination for children younger than 12 years if the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommends it.

Children's books at a daycare facility. Danish health authorities will address Covid-19 vaccination of children aged 5-11 if it is approved by the EU Commission.
Children's books at a daycare facility. Danish health authorities will address Covid-19 vaccination of children aged 5-11 if it is approved by the EU Commission. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

While Denmark currently offers Covid-19 vaccination to children aged 12 years and over, smaller kids may soon be offered a jab against the virus. The EMA yesterday said it had begun assessment of whether the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can be recommended for children aged 5-11.

The director of the Danish Health Authority, Søren Brostrøm, earlier stated he expects a decision on whether Denmark will offer the vaccine to young children to depend on a variety of considerations, should the EMA recommend the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for under-12s.

“It will depend on documentation, approval, and how the epidemic is looking,” Brostrøm earlier said to financial media Børsen on the likelihood of Denmark offering Covid-19 vaccination to smaller children.

Last month, Pfizer/BioNTech published results from a study in which the company’s vaccine was tested among 2,268 children aged 5-11 years.

In the study, children were given one third of the normal dose, divided into two jabs.

Results showed a “robust” level of antibodies corresponding to the amount produced in a separate study on 16-25 year-olds, according to the two companies.

The EMA assessment will result in a recommendation before the EU Commission makes a final decision on approval. The Commission normally follows the EMA recommendation.

For the vaccine to be offered for children in Denmark, the Danish Health Authority will also have to give the green light to its use in the country.

Moderna, the other medical company to produce Covid-19 vaccines currently in use in Denmark, is also seeking approval for use of its vaccines on children under the age of 12, but is yet to reached the final stage of the process.

READ ALSO: Health authority says Denmark has not withdrawn Moderna Covid-19 vaccine from under-18s

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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.

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