Denmark urges public to get booster jabs after Covid-19 infections break record

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and senior health officials said the country would ramp up its drive to provide booster vaccinations as the country, already with record Covid-19 infection levels, braces for the impact of the Omicron variant.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and senior health officials on Wednesday said the country would ramp up its Covid-19 booster vaccination drive.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and senior health officials on Wednesday said the country would ramp up its Covid-19 booster vaccination drive. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

Boosters were the key theme of a briefing given on Wednesday evening by Frederiksen and the heads of health authorities.

Earlier in the day, an additional 5,120 positive Covid-19 tests were registered in Denmark in the latest daily total, a record for the country’s coronavirus epidemic.

Frederiksen urged the country’s senior age groups to accept invitations to get boosters and asked for family members to assists elderly relatives with the digital element of the vaccine booking system.

“It’s completely crucial that authorities and regions now increase their tempo and capacity so there’s no need to wait and no one wastes valuable time,” she said.

The government reiterated at the meeting that it plans to avoid the type of lockdown seen in earlier waves of the virus, which saw schools and businesses close and large events cancelled.

“It’s our clear ambition that Denmark will remain open,” Frederiksen said, adding that vaccines were vital in ensuring this.

While Frederiksen has previously focused on unvaccinated people, this time she asked the public to accept the offer of a booster jab as soon as possible. Boosters will be offered to all over-18s six months after the original vaccination course was completed.

Vaccination capacity is to be ramped up to enable 500,000 jabs per week, the government said at the briefing.

Danish Health Authority director Søren Brostrøm admitted that there were currently delays accessing vaccinations or boosters in some areas.

“We would like to see vaccination be available within a week of receiving the invitation,” Brostrøm said.

READ ALSO: How foreign citizens can get a booster Covid-19 jab in Denmark

All people offered a booster dose should be able to get one within a week in their own health authority region, according to a goal stated by the government.

“Everyone should be able to have a third (booster) jab within the six months [after vaccination, ed.]. That’s the clear goal of authorities,” Frederiksen said.

“You can say that every jab counts right now,” she added.

Health Minister Magnus Heunick said at the briefing that seven cases of the Omicron variant have now been identified in Denmark and that tests were ongoing in several more suspected cases.

“It’s important that we put all hands to the wheel. That is also because of the new variant Omicron. We know from earlier waves that time is a decisive factor,” Heunicke said.

READ ALSO: Denmark requires travellers from Middle East hubs to take Covid-19 test

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Who is eligible for a fourth Covid vaccine dose in Denmark and when?

Public health officials in Denmark say a low turnout for the second round of Covid booster shots — for most people, their fourth jab — has made them concerned that many don’t realise they’re eligible.

Who is eligible for a fourth Covid vaccine dose in Denmark and when?

 Danish authorities have hardly clear on whether to offer fourth Covid jabs and to whom, since the beginning of 2022.

In January, the government announced that fourth shots would be given to the very elderly and other high risk populations— but that decision was reversed just four weeks later and the fourth Covid dose program was ended.

At a June 22nd press conference, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced plans for a more general booster program in the autumn and added that the ‘particularly vulnerable’ would be eligible for new doses the following week. 

When the Covid vaccination program began in early 2021, Denmark estimated the number of ‘selected patients with particularly increased risk’ that should be prioritised for vaccination at 240,000. But in the month since Frederiksen’s announcement, only about 3,500 people have come in for a fourth jab. Experts say that’s in no small part over confusion as to who is ‘particularly vulnerable.’

Indeed, the Danish Health Authority website doesn’t appear to currently provide a list of conditions that qualify for a second booster and instead refers readers to their primary care provider. That’s unfortunate since even general practitioners are finding it hard to determine who the rules say can get a fourth shot, Danish broadcaster DR reports.

The failure to resolve the issue is putting many patients at risk, some public health experts worry. “With the spread we are seeing with Covid at the moment, I think the Health Authority needs to be very clear about who should get the fourth prick now and who should wait,” Torben Mogensen, chairman of the Lung Association, told DR. 

READ ALSO: Danish health minister says further Covid-19 vaccinations could ward off restriction

What we know for sure 

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women are already eligible for fourth doses
  • People with suppressed immune systems are already eligible 
  • Approximately September 15: fourth doses begin for people in care homes and among ‘particularly vulnerable’ elderly people 
  • October 1st: fourth doses begin for everyone 50 years of age and and over 

Your primary care provider (the one on your yellow card) can refer you for a vaccination appointment, as can doctors at hospitals. 

What factors will your doctor consider? 

Guidelines provided to doctors by the Danish Health Authority ask them to weigh the patient’s age, risk of serious course of illness if infected, their presumed immunity status based on recent infection, and their overall risk of infection based on their living conditions (strangely, crowded living conditions and living in a sparsely populated area both suggest you may need a booster shot). 

…and now for the riddles

In lieu of a list of conditions that might qualify a patient for an early fourth shot, doctors have been offered a series of ‘example patients’ that are eligible for a booster  under the new rules. 

  • 45-year-old woman with reduced immune system due to haematological cancer
  • 74-year-old man with severe obesity and heart failure, who has had recurring lower respiratory tract infections for the past six months and declining functional level
  • 65-year-old woman with severe obesity and diabetes with serious co-morbidities, e.g foot ulcers or chronic kidney failure
  • 82-year-old woman with rapid onset of functional loss (e.g. failing memory, reduced mobility and need for help with personal care) and beginning signs of malnutrition (eats too little, does not gain weight)
  • 23-year-old with cystic fibrosis with frequent pneumonia and hospitalisations
  • 50-year-old male with bowel cancer who has recently completed chemotherapy
  • 85-year-old man who lives with his children and grandchildren in a small home
  • 65-year-old woman who has been operated on for breast cancer and has diabetes, and who needs to travel to an area with high infection
  • 39-year-old resident of a social psychiatric residence, with heavy tobacco consumption, occasional alcohol overconsumption, overweight and in treatment with many different drugs

READ ALSO: Danish hospitals see rise in number of Covid patients 

It’s worth a call or message 

With a particularly nasty flu season on the horizon, public health experts say it’s worth a call, email, or message to your primary care provider if you have any reason to suspect you might be eligible for vaccination. 

“We know that infection rates have been rising both in Denmark and in Europe in recent weeks, and a new variant is on its way in,” Aarhus University professor emeritus of infectious diseases told DR.  “Then comes autumn, when we know that a respiratory virus spreads more than it does in summer. So there’s every reason to get that fourth jab if you’re in the vulnerable groups and it’s been more than six months since you had your third.”