Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke announced that the country will soon offer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine jab to the ‘high risk’ citizens.
Denmark will become the first European country to do so despite a regulator’s warning that there is not enough scientific data to know for sure whether the new policy will help the people considered at high risk from the COVID-19 virus.
“We are now embarking on a new chapter, namely a decision to offer the fourth jab to the most vulnerable citizens,” Health Minister Magnus Heunicke told reporters on Wednesday, adding that “the more widespread the infection is in society, the greater the risk that the infection will reach our most vulnerable.”
The additional shot will be available starting later this week for those with serious pre-existing conditions who received an initial booster last fall, the official continued. The government is also now considering another dose for elderly citizens and nursing home residents, though has yet to make a decision.
The move comes days ahead of a planned reopening for movie theaters, music venues, sports stadiums and other public places – restrictions first imposed last month in hopes of stemming the spread of the Omicron variant. While Denmark continues to see a wave of new infections associated with the mutation, deaths and hospitalizations remain well below peaks seen last year.
Though Copenhagen stopped short of reviving a full-blown lockdown in reaction to Omicron and said it would like to “keep as much of society open as possible,” the latest restrictions nonetheless prompted heated protests in the nation’s capital, with hundreds seen marching to denounce the Danish “epidemic law” over the weekend.
Israel was among the first nations in the world to unveil a fourth shot for residents, followed by Chile earlier this week.
Hungary is also mulling whether to do the same, while experts in Austria have proposed fourth doses on an “off-label” basis, despite misgivings from the European Union’s drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
The EMA recently warned that there is insufficient data to know if a fourth shot would be beneficial, with its chief vaccine official Marco Cavaleri questioning whether “repeated vaccinations within short intervals” is a “sustainable long-term strategy.”