Denmark stops using Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

The Danish Health Authority has decided to drop the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from its mass coronavirus vaccination program.

“Taking the present situation in Denmark into account, what we are currently losing in our effort to prevent severe illness from COVID-19 cannot outweigh the risk of causing possible side effects in the form of severe blood clots in those we vaccinate,” the Danish Health Authority’s Deputy Director General Helene Probst said in a press release.

“In the midst of an epidemic, this has been a difficult decision to make, especially since we have also had to discontinue using the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca.”

The authority’s decision that “the benefits do not outweigh the risks” comes after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) concluded that a possible link existed between rare but severe cases of blood clots (vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia or VITT) and the COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

The decision will affect those in the 20 to 39 age group, who will now face a delay of up to four weeks in their vaccination, according to the press release.

However, the Health Authority noted that the decision does not rule out that Johnson & Johnson vaccines may be used later.

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, said the press release.

On April 14, Denmark decided to entirely cease administering the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are currently included in the country’s official vaccination program.

Nevertheless, Danish citizens still have the opportunity to choose both the dropped AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines voluntarily and for free.

In a majority vote, the Danish Parliament has supported the decision. The optional vaccination scheme is expected to begin in May, the Danish news agency Ritzau reported on Monday.

According to the Statens Serum Institut (SSI), Denmark on Monday registered 762 new COVID-19 infections with no new deaths in the past 24 hours. To date, the country has reported 253,673 cases and 2,490 deaths, while 1,367,495 Danes have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, which corresponds to 23.4 percent of the population.