Sunday, October 17, 2021

Denmark bars J&J from Covid vaccination programme

Danish health officials say the epidemiological situation in the country means it can do without the Johnson & Johnson jab, and will rely only on the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

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Denmark said Monday it will bar the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from its Covid inoculation drive over worries about blood clots, following a similar move against the AstraZeneca jab.

The Danish Health Authority noted that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) “has concluded that there is a possible link between rare but severe cases of blood clots” and the Johnson & Johnson drug.

Both the EMA and the World Health Organization have however recommended the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on the basis that the benefits outweigh the risks.

But Danish health officials said the current favourable epidemiological situation in the Scandinavian country meant it could do without the Johnson & Johnson jab, and would rely only on the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

“The Danish Health Authority has concluded that the benefits of using the Covid-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson do not outweigh the risk of causing the possible adverse effect… in those who receive the vaccine,” the authority said in a statement.

“Therefore, the Danish Health Authority will continue the Danish mass vaccination programme against Covid-19 without the Covid-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson,” it added.

The health authority noted Denmark’s epidemic was currently “under control”, and that “the vaccination rollout is progressing satisfactorily with other available vaccines”.

Delayed campaign

But it acknowledged that the decision would delay the vaccination campaign by four weeks. It said it expected to have vaccinated everyone over the age of 16 by the end of August.

In mid-April, Denmark announced it was dropping the AstraZeneca vaccine after putting it on hold a month earlier, citing similar concerns, becoming the first country in Europe to completely cut the vaccine.

Now also one of the first countries to avoid the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Denmark had never authorised the drug for use. Authorities had been evaluating it since mid-April.

Health authorities said Monday they could however re-evaluate the use of both the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines should the situation change.

“New knowledge may emerge, or the situation in Denmark may change, for example, in terms of infection pressure, disease burden, epidemic control, or other vaccines’ availability,” the health authority said.

Of Denmark’s 5.8 million inhabitants, 11.5% are fully vaccinated and 23.4% have received a first dose.

Currently four inoculations are approved for use in the EU: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson – the latter two reserved for older people in most European countries.

According to an AFP tally, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is being used in 17 countries, including France, South Africa, the US, Spain, Germany and Poland.

AstraZeneca’s jab is meanwhile being administered in 160 countries, Pfizer’s in 80, and Moderna’s in about 40 countries.

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