What next for Danish doses of vaccine after AstraZeneca withdrawal?

Denmark’s Covid-19 vaccination programme faces significant delays following the decision by health authorities to completely withdraw the AstraZeneca vaccine from use.

What next for Danish doses of vaccine after AstraZeneca withdrawal?
Photo: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

The Danish Health Authority and the State Serum Institute yesterday announced that Denmark will completely withdraw the AstraZeneca vaccine from its vaccination programme due to concerns over potential rare, but serious side effects.

Denmark is the only country in the world so far to take that decision.

The vaccination calendar has been pushed back as a result, with the lowest-priority groups now not expected to completely vaccination until late August.

The decision is already being questioned. Two conservative parties have called for the public to be able to decide themselves whether or not they want to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine if they are willing to accept any potential risk.

“It is important that we make use of the vaccines we have if there are Danes who wish to have an AstraZeneca vaccine. Amongst those who have received the first dose there are surely some people who want a second dose and thereby to complete their vaccination,” Conservative political spokesperson Mette Abildgaard told news wire Ritzau.

READ ALSO: Denmark to receive additional doses of Pfizer vaccine in second quarter

Two cases of blood clots, one of which was fatal, have been linked to AstraZeneca vaccinations in Denmark 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 Danish Health Authority has confirmed.

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

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

Libertarian party Liberal Alliance has also called for citizens to be given the opportunity to choose whether they want the vaccine.

“Danes are adult, consenting people who are capable of taking this type of decision on an informed basis. This would give individual vaccinated people more freedom and society a faster route to reopening,” the party’s leader Alex Vanopslagh tweeted.

Combined with potential further delays involving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Abildgaard said that “we risk a situation in which we do not finish vaccinating Danes in 2021”.

Meanwhile, unions including the Danish Medical Association and FOA have called for a new plan for front line health care staff after the decision to withdraw AstraZeneca.

The vaccine was used extensively to inoculate health sector workers including doctors, nurses and social care workers. They are now left unsure as to when they will be vaccinated or receive a different vaccine, in the case of those who have already had their first dose.

“This is critical because many amongst our staff at workplaces have had their first injection and if there is a sudden outbreak again at care homes there will be a staff shortage in no time if we don’t ensure staff are vaccinated,” FOA union head Mona Striib told  Ritzau.

Plans already appear to be forming for Denmark’s AstraZeneca vaccines to be diverted to other countries.

Both Latvia and the Czech Republic have expressed their interest in purchasing Denmark’s AstraZeneca doses, while WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge told reporters that the Nordic country is examining options for sharing AstraZeneca’s vaccines with poorer nations, Reuters reported.

Member comments

  1. “Two conservative parties have called for the public to be able to decide themselves whether or not they want to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine if they are willing to accept any potential risk.”
    Yes for sure , I want my second AstraZeneca dose. Why is the Government forcing me to use another vaccine (eg Pfizer) as second dose? . That is surely MUCH riskier ? – there is no medical evidence I know of that mixing vaccine is recommended as being safe

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Covid deaths in Sweden ‘set to rise in coming weeks’

The Public Health Agency of Sweden has warned that the number of weekly Covid deaths is set to rise, after the number of people testing positive for the virus rose for the sixth week running.

Covid deaths in Sweden 'set to rise in coming weeks'

According to the agency, an average of 27 people have died with or from the virus a week over the past three weeks. 

“According to our analyses, the number who died in week 27 (July 4th-July 11th), is more than died in week 26 and we expect this to continue to grow,” the agency wrote in a report issued on Thursday. 

In the week ending July 17th (week 28), 4,700 new cases of Covid-19 were registered, a 22 percent rise on the previous week. 

“We are seeing rising infection levels of Covid-19 which means that there will be more people admitted to hospital, and even more who die with Covid-19,”  said Anneli Carlander, a unit chief at the agency. “The levels we are seeing now are higher than they were last summer, but we haven’t reached the same level we saw last winter when omicron was spreading for the first time.” 

While 27 deaths a week with for from Covid-19 is a rise on the low levels seen this spring, it is well below the peak death rate Sweden saw in April 2020, when more than 100 people were dying a day. 

The number of Covid deaths recorded each week this summer. Source. Public Health Agency of Sweden
A graph of Covid deaths per day since the start of the pandemic shows that the current death rate, while alarming, remains low. Photo: Public Health Agency of Sweden

Carlander said that cases were rising among those in sheltered accommodation for the elderly, and also elderly people given support in their own homes, groups which are recommended to get tested for the virus if they display symptoms. The infection rate among those given support in their homes has risen 40 percent on last week. 

This week there were also 12 new patients admitted to intensive care units with Covid-19 in Sweden’s hospitals.  

The increase has come due to the new BA.5 variant of omicron, which is better able to infect people who have been vaccinated or already fallen ill with Covid-19. Vaccination or a past infection does, however, give protection against serious illness and death.