Denmark to take delivery of millions of withdrawn Covid-19 vaccines

Seven million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson are expected to be delivered to Denmark, despite the country having long since withdrawn the vaccine from its national inoculation programme.

Denmark to take delivery of millions of withdrawn Covid-19 vaccines
File photo: Gaelen Morse/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

The new deliveries were reported by broadcaster TV2 on Tuesday.

Denmark already has around 600,000 doses of the J&J vaccine in storage, having decided earlier this year to withdraw it from its mainstream vaccination programme due to concerns over rare but serious side effects.

Last week, health authorities said they would sell 100,000 doses to private companies, who could use them to offer private, paid vaccination in Denmark, including to people visiting the country.

But “no decision has been made” as to the remaining 500,000 doses, according to information provided by the Ministry of Health to TV2.

The broadcaster also reports that the national infectious disease agency, State Serum Institute confirmed that Denmark is obliged to accept delivery of the vaccines.

Once they are in Denmark, the vaccines are difficult to donate to other countries via the Covax scheme, setup to promote Covid-19 vaccine equity.

That is because Covax generally only supplies vaccines directly from producers to the country which will be using them.

Danish politicians have called for the vaccines to be delivered to countries behind Denmark on vaccine distribution.

“There is absolutely no need to (take the vaccines) because we don’t need (them). We have to stop this,” Conservative party health spokesperson Per Larsen told TV2.

Just under 50,000 people in Denmark have been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however. This was through a now-closed opt-in scheme set up following the withdrawal of J&J from the main vaccination programme.

According to TV2, people who received the J&J vaccine are likely to be offered a booster from Pfizer or Moderna.


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Can you get a covid vaccine in Denmark if you’re not in the at-risk groups?

If you’re not in one of the ‘high risk’ categories, a covid booster can be hard to come by in Denmark.

Can you get a covid vaccine in Denmark if you’re not in the at-risk groups?

A growing body of research indicates that keeping your covid vaccination up to date decreases your risk of long covid—a range of cardiovascular, neurological and respiratory symptoms that can be debilitating. But accessing the vaccine booster is not straightforward in Denmark if you are not within one of the ‘risk groups’ for the national annual booster scheme.

Ahead of winter 2023, the Danish government made a significant change to its covid vaccination policy. From November 2022 until October 2023, anyone who wanted to get vaccinated could do so at the government vaccination centres for a modest fee.

But in October 2023, the Danish government said it was bowing out of the elective booster game, since “vaccines will be sold on the private market under normal market conditions,” the Danish Health Ministry (Sundhedsministeriet) wrote.

READ ALSO: Covid-19 no longer given special status in Denmark

But it seems pharmacies and private clinics didn’t step in to fill the void the way the Danish government expected—although public health websites linked out to the Apotek pharmacy chain as a resource for voluntary covid vaccination, Apotek pharmacy confirmed to the Local Denmark via email that they did not offer paid covid vaccines this year.

As of February 5th, the only option for a voluntary covid booster in the Greater Copenhagen metropolitan area is through Copenhagen Medical, a private clinic in Sankt Annæ Plads near Nyhavn that offers a range of travel vaccines and tests. The Pfizer booster costs 920 kroner.

Other companies offer paid vaccinations, but the closest clinics are at least 30 km away (for instance, the Danske Lægers Vaccinations Service offers paid covid vaccines at their Roskilde and Hillerød locations).

The public covid vaccine campaign ended on January 15th, by when 1.1 million people had received a Covid vaccine during the 2023-2024 season in Denmark, according to the State Serum Institute, Denmark’s infectious disease agency.

SSI told the Local that it is unable to determine how many of those were through the public vaccination programme and how many were paid for at private clinics.