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VACCINE

Denmark withdraws AstraZeneca from Covid-19 vaccination programme

Denmark has confirmed it will withdraw the AstraZeneca vaccine from the country's Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Denmark withdraws AstraZeneca from Covid-19 vaccination programme
Photo: Ann Wang/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

The Nordic country said on Tuesday it would stop using the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine altogether, becoming the first European country to do so over suspected rare but serious side effects.

Despite recommendations from the World Health Organization and European medicines watchdog to continue using the inoculation, “Denmark’s vaccination campaign will go ahead without the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Health Authority director Søren Brostrøm told a press conference.

Despite the decision to stop using the vaccine, Brostrøm called it “effective and accessible”.

“It has been a difficult decision in the middle of an epidemic to continue the vaccination programme without an effective and accessible vaccine against Covid-19. But we have other vaccines available and we have good control over the epidemic,” he said.

“At the same time, we have come far with vaccination of older age groups for which the prevention potential of vaccination is greatest,” he added.

Denmark initially paused use of the vaccine on March 11th before extending its suspension by three weeks from March 25th. More than a dozen countries followed suit but all but a few have since resumed the use after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) emphasised the benefits of the vaccine and deemed it “safe and effective”.

Last week, the EMA announced it had come to the conclusion that unusual blood clots suffered by numerous people around Europe should be considered as rare side effects of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, but that overall the benefits of the jab outweigh the risk.

The Danish Health Authority subsequently said it would await the results of the country’s own studies on the rare cases of blood clots linked to the vaccine before making a final decision on whether to resume its use.

“We now know that there is a possible biological explanation that the AstraZeneca vaccine can cause the rare cases of blood clots. We can see that,” Brostrøm said.

Danish Medicines Agency head of department Tanja Erichsen said at Tuesday’s briefing that Denmark agreed with the EMA verdict that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risk. 

“Overall, it is a safe and effective vaccine for the treatment of Covid-19 disease,” she said.

The health authority also said it did not rule out reinstating the vaccine in future.

In Denmark, two cases of thrombosis, one of which was fatal, were linked to vaccinations after more than 140,000 people received the jab made by the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker.

People who have received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Denmark will now be offered an alternative vaccine, the health authority has confirmed.

However, there was no immediate need to re-vaccinate them, Brostrøm said.

“They were scheduled to be re-vaccinated after 12 weeks. Those 12 weeks have not yet passed. So it is not a question of them waiting for re-vaccination now,” he said.

“That is partly because you get very good protection after the first injection (of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” he added.

In the country of 5.8 million inhabitants, eight percent have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and 17 percent have received a first dose.

Since suspending use of the AstraZeneca jab in March, Denmark has continued with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna jabs.

The AstraZeneca suspension delays the country’s vaccine rollout plans, but the health authority said in a statement that the availability of other vaccines combined with the pandemic being under control at the moment meant the inoculation campaign could continue without it.

But the date by which the country expects to have vaccinated all people over the age of 50 has been pushed back by two weeks, according to an updated version of the health authority’s vaccination calendar. That places the date in the last week of May.

The milestone is an important one because the government has earmarked it as the point by which it hopes to have lifted the majority of the country’s Covid-19 restrictions.

Delays are also likely in relation to the situation with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after the American company yesterday announced it would put its European rollout on hold.

READ ALSO: European countries face slower vaccination as Johnson & Johnson delays rollout

Member comments

  1. Please send those Astra Zeneca vaccine from Denmark to Vietnam, if the country withdraws it. Since, Vietnam is conducting inject Astra Zeneca vaccine without any critical effect.

    Thanks

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COVID-19

Public Health Agency recommends two Covid doses next year for elderly

Sweden's Public Health Agency is recommending that those above the age of 80 should receive two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine a year, once in the spring and once in the autumn, as it shifts towards a longer-term strategy for the virus.

Public Health Agency recommends two Covid doses next year for elderly

In a new recommendation, the agency said that those living in elderly care centres, and those above the age of 80 should from March 1st receive two vaccinations a year, with a six month gap between doses. 

“Elderly people develop a somewhat worse immune defence after vaccination and immunity wanes faster than among young and healthy people,” the agency said. “That means that elderly people have a greater need of booster doses than younger ones. The Swedish Public Health Agency considers, based on the current knowledge, that it will be important even going into the future to have booster doses for the elderly and people in risk groups.” 

READ ALSO: 

People between the ages of 65 and 79 years old and young people with risk factors, such as obesity, diabetes, poor kidney function or high blood pressure, are recommended to take one additional dose per year.

The new vaccination recommendation, which will start to apply from March 1st next year, is only for 2023, Johanna Rubin, the investigator in the agency’s vaccination programme unit, explained. 

She said too much was still unclear about how long protection from vaccination lasted to institute a permanent programme.

“This recommendation applies to 2023. There is not really an abundance of data on how long protection lasts after a booster dose, of course, but this is what we can say for now,” she told the TT newswire. 

It was likely, however, that elderly people would end up being given an annual dose to protect them from any new variants, as has long been the case with influenza.

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