Danish prime minister aims ire at vaccine sceptics

Prime minister Mette Frederiksen left no doubt as to her views on scepticism around the Covid-19 vaccine in comments during a government briefing.

Danish PM Mette Frederiksen on Tuesday thanked people who have booked Covid-19 vaccinations after earlier saying unvaccinated people
Danish PM Mette Frederiksen on Tuesday thanked people who have booked Covid-19 vaccinations after earlier saying unvaccinated people "bear the responsibility" for high infection numbers. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

Announcing the government’s plan to reintroduce Denmark’s Covid-19 health pass, the coronapas, Fredriksen said Monday evening that “for all of you who are not vaccinated, (things) are going to become more difficult. And that’s also how I think it should be.”

“It can’t be said clearly enough. Those of you who are not yet been vaccinated: do so,” the prime minister also said.

READ ALSO: Five key things Danish PM said about country’s coronavirus situation

Data clearly shows lower infection rates and lower hospitalisation rates, and less time spent in hospital with Covid-19 for people who are vaccinated, Frederiksen noted.

Denmark currently has a Covid-19 vaccination rate of just over 75 percent.

Monday saw the fifth consecutive day with over 2,000 new cases of Covid-19 in Denmark.

2,294 people tested positive from 102,000 PCR tests, a test positivity rate of 2.25 percent.

Over 300 people are now admitted to Danish hospitals with the virus after that total rose to 303 on Monday. That is the highest number since February 15th.

Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said during the briefing that the number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients had further increased to 313 later on Monday.

Frederiksen said on Monday that the rise in infections were related to a “small group” of unvaccinated people who were not following epidemic guidelines put in place to protect society.

“They bear the responsibility for all of the Danish society just now. We are a good society which has got back to a lot of life which many other countries don’t have,” she said.

“The government stands side by side with the just under 90 percent of people who are doing the right thing. The remaining group must not ruin things for the rest,” she also said.

When asked about the possibility of a new national lockdown echoing those put into place in March and December 2020, Frederiksen played down that eventuality and turned the narrative back towards vaccination.

“We are considering to a greater degree (than lockdown) what we can do to stop the views small group of unvaccinated people have on the vaccine from ruining everything for the vast majority,” the prime minister said.

The PM did not go into further details as to what that would entail.

But Frederiksen risks pushing vaccine sceptics even further from accepting a jab by directing strong rhetoric at them, according to an expert.

“The press briefing did more to dig a deeper divide than it did to create reconciliation,” Michael Bang Pedersen, professor at Aarhus University’s Department of Political Science, told news wire Ritzau.

Pedersen is also the leader of the HOPE project, which monitors the behavioural patterns of people in Denmark during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“But we know from research that if you don’t have much confidence in authorities – and we know that unvaccinated people don’t – this [criticism such as Frederiksen’s, ed.] can make you dig your heels in,” the professor said.

In parliament on Tuesday, the prime minister praised those who had booked vaccinations after the Monday briefing.

Several thousand people booked vaccinations following the briefing, which was reported by major broadcasters DR and TV2 and livestreamed on DR’s website.

The Zealand health authority said it had noticed a clear uptick in the number of vaccinations between Monday and Tuesday, according to DR.

“I have noted that many have booked an appointment for vaccination in recent hours. A thousand, thousand thanks for your positive response to the request,” she said prior to parliament’s questions session.

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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.