All booked inoculations using the AstraZeneca vaccine will be canceled, but the decision was not based on safety concerns, said the Danish Health Authority in a statement Wednesday.
“We are basically in agreement with EMA’s [European Medicine Agency] assessment regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine. That is why it is important to emphasise that it is still an approved vaccine [in Europe],” said Søren Brostrøm, director general of the Danish Health Authority. “And I understand if other countries in a different situation than us choose to continue using the vaccine.”
The Danish Health Authority paused the use of AstraZeneca on March 11 and the Danish vaccination effort has continued with the vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
“If Denmark were in a completely different situation and in the midst of a violent third outbreak, for example, and a healthcare system under pressure – and if we had not reached such an advanced point in our rollout of the vaccines – then I would not hesitate to use the vaccine, even if there were rare but severe complications associated with using it,” Brostrøm said.
Speaking to the press on Wednesday, the Danish Medicines Agency and its National Board of Health presented the results of their investigations around AstraZeneca and the consequences they will have for the Danish vaccination program.
“It is our decision to continue the rollout of vaccinations in Denmark without AstraZeneca,” said Brostrøm, who added that the case of a 60-year-old Danish woman who died after being vaccinated with AstraZeneca was “very tragic.”
Earlier in the month, the EMA concluded that the benefits of using the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine continue to outweigh the risks. The Danish Health Authority says it agrees with the agency’s general findings and that the possible benefits of AstraZeneca in combating the Covid-19 pandemic continue to outweigh the risk of serious adverse events.
Brostrøm said the AstraZeneca vaccine had not been completely scrapped, but that the vaccine has been deselected due to “the specific, Danish context.”
Brostrøm went on to call it “a milestone” that “we have now reached 1,000,000 vaccinated Danes,” and said confidence in vaccines is important.
“When you vaccinate en masse, it is important to have a high level of support and trust in the vaccines,” he said.
The Danish Health and Medicines Authority’s decision to end the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine takes into account a number of factors including Denmark’s low infection rate.
“It does not stem from the fact that we have a fundamental disagreement with each other,” Tanja Erichsen, head of pharmacovigilance, told the press Wednesday. “The decision made in Denmark does not mean that the Danish Medicines Agency disagrees with EMA.”
Erichsen made the comments moments before she appeared to collapse and fall at the press conference, which was later addressed by the Danish Medicines Agency on Twitter.
“Our head of pharmacovigilance, Tanja Erichsen, fainted during today’s press conference,” read the tweet.
“She is conscious again and is okay under the circumstances, but for safety’s sake she takes a trip by ambulance to the emergency room to be checked.”