Danish prime minister aims ire at vaccine sceptics

Prime minister Mette Frederiksen left no doubt as to her views on scepticism around the Covid-19 vaccine in comments during a government briefing.

Danish PM Mette Frederiksen on Tuesday thanked people who have booked Covid-19 vaccinations after earlier saying unvaccinated people
Danish PM Mette Frederiksen on Tuesday thanked people who have booked Covid-19 vaccinations after earlier saying unvaccinated people "bear the responsibility" for high infection numbers. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

Announcing the government’s plan to reintroduce Denmark’s Covid-19 health pass, the coronapas, Fredriksen said Monday evening that “for all of you who are not vaccinated, (things) are going to become more difficult. And that’s also how I think it should be.”

“It can’t be said clearly enough. Those of you who are not yet been vaccinated: do so,” the prime minister also said.

READ ALSO: Five key things Danish PM said about country’s coronavirus situation

Data clearly shows lower infection rates and lower hospitalisation rates, and less time spent in hospital with Covid-19 for people who are vaccinated, Frederiksen noted.

Denmark currently has a Covid-19 vaccination rate of just over 75 percent.

Monday saw the fifth consecutive day with over 2,000 new cases of Covid-19 in Denmark.

2,294 people tested positive from 102,000 PCR tests, a test positivity rate of 2.25 percent.

Over 300 people are now admitted to Danish hospitals with the virus after that total rose to 303 on Monday. That is the highest number since February 15th.

Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said during the briefing that the number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients had further increased to 313 later on Monday.

Frederiksen said on Monday that the rise in infections were related to a “small group” of unvaccinated people who were not following epidemic guidelines put in place to protect society.

“They bear the responsibility for all of the Danish society just now. We are a good society which has got back to a lot of life which many other countries don’t have,” she said.

“The government stands side by side with the just under 90 percent of people who are doing the right thing. The remaining group must not ruin things for the rest,” she also said.

When asked about the possibility of a new national lockdown echoing those put into place in March and December 2020, Frederiksen played down that eventuality and turned the narrative back towards vaccination.

“We are considering to a greater degree (than lockdown) what we can do to stop the views small group of unvaccinated people have on the vaccine from ruining everything for the vast majority,” the prime minister said.

The PM did not go into further details as to what that would entail.

But Frederiksen risks pushing vaccine sceptics even further from accepting a jab by directing strong rhetoric at them, according to an expert.

“The press briefing did more to dig a deeper divide than it did to create reconciliation,” Michael Bang Pedersen, professor at Aarhus University’s Department of Political Science, told news wire Ritzau.

Pedersen is also the leader of the HOPE project, which monitors the behavioural patterns of people in Denmark during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“But we know from research that if you don’t have much confidence in authorities – and we know that unvaccinated people don’t – this [criticism such as Frederiksen’s, ed.] can make you dig your heels in,” the professor said.

In parliament on Tuesday, the prime minister praised those who had booked vaccinations after the Monday briefing.

Several thousand people booked vaccinations following the briefing, which was reported by major broadcasters DR and TV2 and livestreamed on DR’s website.

The Zealand health authority said it had noticed a clear uptick in the number of vaccinations between Monday and Tuesday, according to DR.

“I have noted that many have booked an appointment for vaccination in recent hours. A thousand, thousand thanks for your positive response to the request,” she said prior to parliament’s questions session.

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Denmark suspends national Covid-19 vaccination programme

Denmark, which in February lifted all curbs related to the coronavirus pandemic, said on Tuesday it was suspending its general Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Denmark suspends national Covid-19 vaccination programme

Noting that the epidemic was under control and that vaccination levels were high, the Danish Health Authority said the country was in a “good position.”

“Therefore we are winding down the mass vaccination program against Covid-19,” said Bolette Søborg, director of the authority’s department of infectious diseases.

Around 81 percent of Denmark’s 5.8 million inhabitants have received two doses of the vaccine and 61.6 percent have also received a booster.

Denmark noted a drop in the number of new infections and stable hospitalisation rates.

While invitations for vaccinations would no longer be issued after May 15th, health officials anticipate that vaccinations would resume after the summer.

“We plan to reopen the vaccination programme in the autumn. This will be preceded by a thorough professional assessment of who and when to vaccinate and with which vaccines,” Søborg said.

As a wave of the Omicron variant hit the country last November, Denmark intensified its immunisation campaign, accelerating access to booster shots and offering a fourth dose from mid-January to the most vulnerable.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: Denmark registers under 1,000 cases in a day for first time in 2022