Denmark’s AstraZeneca second doses to be replaced with different vaccine

The Danish Health Authority has confirmed that people who have received a first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine will be offered a second dose from another company.

Denmark’s AstraZeneca second doses to be replaced with different vaccine
Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

Health authorities last week announced the withdrawal of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Denmark’s Covid-19 vaccination programme. That left around 150,000 people who have received AstraZeneca as their first vaccine dose, including a large proportion of healthcare sector workers, in doubt as to when and how they will receive their second dose.

The country’s health authority has since confirmed that people who have received a first dose with AstraZeneca will be offered a second dose from another company

The second vaccine will be offered around 12 weeks after the date of the first one.

“We have reviewed documentation and medical recommendations from other countries and on that basis have concluded that the best offer is to offer everyone who has received one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca a second dose with a so-called mRNA vaccine,” Danish Health Authority director Søren Brostrøm said in a statement.

The two vaccines in use in Denmark at the current time, from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, are both of this type.

That is not the case for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which uses a viral vector.

Previous reports have shown experts to have differing views on the use of a different Covid-19 vaccine as a second dose.

Eskild Petersen, a professor in infectious medicine at Aarhus University Department of Clinical Medicine, told news wire Ritzau last week that he would be “relatively comfortable” with the decision.

“I would be relatively comfortable with it. We have no data from the corona vaccines, but we know from other vaccines that it is possible,” Petersen said.

“Studies show that you can boost the old vaccination with the new one. The central thing with vaccines is that they make a protein, in this case a spike protein, which corresponds to the one in the coronavirus. That (protein) is made regardless of whether you take the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine,” he explained.

Another Danish university professor, Camilla Foged of the University of Copenhagen, a specialist in vaccine design, told Ritzau prior to the decision to withdraw AstraZeneca that there was no data to support the effectiveness of mixing vaccines.

“I have not seen data that documents the effect of mixing vaccines,” Foged said.

“When you give the second dose you boost the first (immune) response you have been given. The question is, if you mix vaccines, whether you boost the immune system suffucuently,” she said.

Brostrøm rejected suggestions Denmark was experimenting by mixing vaccines.

“I wouldn’t call it that [an experiment, ed.]. Mixing vaccines has also been seen in other contexts,” he told Ritzau.

“It’s something that has to be done sometimes for various reasons. For example if a member of the public is allergic to the first dose or if you run out of vaccines,” he said.

“So I wouldn’t call it an experiment, but of course it is not something we have huge medical studies on,” he added.

The health director noted that a British study is currently looking at the mixing of Covid-19 vaccines, and that France, Germany and Norway all currently allow doses to be mixed.

READ ALSO: Denmark to consider individual choice over AstraZeneca vaccine

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Vaccine scramble: How Spaniards want Covid jabs more than other Europeans

Whilst the EU warns that unused doses due to vaccine scepticism are piling up, Spaniards of all ages want to achieve immunity against Covid-19 as soon as possible, the data shows. 

Vaccine scramble: How Spaniards want Covid jabs more than other Europeans
People queue to get the vaccine in Barcelona. Photo: Lluis Gené/AFP

In Spain, where the Covid-19 rollout has gone from one of the slowest in the EU to currently one of the fastest, pretty much everyone wants to get vaccinated. 

With priority groups almost fully immunised, Spain is still beating daily records with 600,000 to 700,000 doses administered every day. 

The spike in cases among the country’s young population has led several regions to bring forward jabs for teens and twenty-somethings ahead of people in their thirties.

Despite the apparent lack of concern for the pandemic witnessed  in packed squares and streets over the past weeks, young people who have been able to take advantage of the vaccine offer have headed en masse to the vaccination centres. 

When an Asturian youth called Ana Santos told a local newspaper that “after the elderly, it should be our turn to get vaccinated as it’s not as if people in their forties go out, is it?”, her comments went down like a tonne of bricks among this age group, who demanded it was their turn to reach full immunisation first. 

Vaccine scepticism hasn’t been a problem for Spain as it has been for other countries, with President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen launching a warning recently that vaccine supplies are piling up, even though Brussels has reached its target of providing enough doses to fully vaccinate 70 percent of EU adults.

“If we look at the statistics, more and more doses remain unused,” von der Leyen told journalists in Strasbourg.

“This is linked to the fact that there is a greater distribution of vaccines, but in part also due to doubts about vaccination,” adding that it was crucial to reach the most sceptical parts of the population” in the face of the “worrying” presence of the Delta variant.

“Traditionally in Spain, we have had much less resistance or rejection towards vaccines, that’s always been the case,” vaccine expert at the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP) Ángel Hernández-Merino told 20minutos. 

“In any vaccination programme, it’s vital to count on the population being willing to accept the vaccination”.

A June 2021 Eurobarometer study found that 49 percent of people in Spain want to get vaccinated “as soon as possible”, the highest rate in the entire EU (32 percent EU average). 

Whereas an average of 9 percent of EU citizens don’t ever want to get vaccinated, the rate in Spain is 4 percent.  Around 63 percent of Spaniards told Eurobarometer that they couldn’t understand why people are hesitant to get vaccinated and 71 percent said Covid vaccines are the only way for the pandemic to end. 

In Belgium, around a third of the population doesn’t want to get vaccinated.

In other countries where in the earlier stages of the Covid vaccination campaign it seemed  that available doses were easily used up it’s now becoming evident that sprinting through the age groups doesn’t guarantee that everyone is being vaccinated. 

Germany, the UK and the US, all seen as examples to Spain of how to quickly immunise a population, have all seen their campaigns slow down due to hesitancy and the summer holidays.

Spain’s Health Ministry doesn’t give data on how many people have rejected the vaccine and why, but stats do show that already more than half of the population (57.5 percent) have at least one dose and 43.3 percent are fully vaccinated. 

The Spanish government has stuck to its objective of vaccinating 70 percent of the country’s 47 million people before the end of August, even though it did fall short of its June target by more than half a million doses. 

Rather than vaccine scepticism, what’s been holding up Spain’s inoculation campaign have been doubts over the administration of second AstraZeneca vaccines and the decision to keep a reserve in case the country experienced delivery setbacks as it has in the past, with 2.9 million doses in storage reported in late June.