Denmark announced a plan for its fall COVID-19 vaccination drive, saying it will offer omicron-specific booster shots to high-risk individuals, including everyone 50 and over. But U.S.-based misinformation peddlers misleadingly suggest that means the shots are unsafe for those under 50. The Danish Health Authority said that is a misinterpretation.
How do we know vaccines are safe?
Booster shots formulated to better protect against severe illness from the currently circulating variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are now available.
Which means that bogus claims from those who spread vaccine misinformation are making the rounds, too.
Conservative talk show host Clay Travis, for example, said in a video clip posted on Facebook: “Denmark is banning the COVID shot for anyone under the age of 50 because it is not safe.”
Like others who have made similar claims, Travis cited a suggestive Sept. 14 Substack post from Alex Berenson, a former New York Times reporter who has sown doubt about the vaccines during the pandemic.
But it’s not true that Denmark is “banning” the boosters for those under 50 due to safety concerns.
Rather, the Danish Health Authority is focusing its fall vaccination drive on those who are most vulnerable to severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19 — which means those who are over 60. But the Danish health system is offering the boosters to everyone 50 and older as a precaution, as it has explained in the publicly available report on the reasoning and planned implementation of the program.
The current Danish vaccination program — announced on Sept. 13 — is aimed at 2.5 million people, Tina Gustavsen, a spokeswoman for the Danish Health Authority, told us in an email. The total population of Denmark is 5.9 million, according to the World Bank.
Referring to the plan to give booster shots to roughly half the country, she said, “It stands to reason that any health authority on the planet would only do this when they are convinced that the vaccines are safe.”
In addition to anyone 50 and older, the booster shots will be given to those under 50 who have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk for severe illness, those who work in health care or eldercare, relatives of those who are at high risk and pregnant women.
“The aim of the vaccination programme against covid-19 this autumn is to get us well through the winter by protecting people who are at the highest risk of becoming severely ill and by avoiding that the Danish healthcare system, especially the hospitals, are overburdened,” the Danish Health Authority explained in an English-language post on its website.
Further, Gustavsen told us by email, “Data also show that the population under the age of 50 is expected to have significant immunity, both as a result of previous infection and previous vaccination. On this basis, and due to the fact that very few persons under the age of 50 are at risk of running a serious course of covid-19 disease, the Danish Health Authority does not currently plan on recommending vaccination to persons under the age of 18 as a group. Children and young people who are at increased risk of a serious course of covid-19 will continue to have the option of vaccination after individual assessment.”
We asked if those under 50 who don’t fit the increased risk criteria could get a booster if they wanted. Gustavsen said, “In Denmark, the vaccination strategy against covid-19 in the fall/winter 2022/23 is to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death from covid-19 – not to prevent infections.”
She also noted that primary vaccination continues to be available for those under 50.
As of Sept. 13, about 82% of Denmark’s population was fully vaccinated, compared to about 68% in the U.S.
“We have achieved very high population immunity in Denmark,” the Danish Health Authority wrote in an explainer about the new booster drive. “This is due both to the high adherence to the vaccination programme and to many people previously having been infected with covid-19. … We expect that a large part of the population will become infected with covid-19 during the autumn, and we therefore want to vaccinate those having the highest risk so that they are protected from severe illness if they become infected.”
So, the claim that Denmark has banned those under 50 from getting vaccinated against COVID-19 due to safety concerns is false. The country has a high rate of adherence to vaccination and is focusing its current booster drive on those who are most vulnerable, which accounts for nearly half the population.
Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over FactCheck.org’s editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Press release. “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech Bivalent COVID-19 Vaccines for Use as a Booster Dose.” 31 Aug. 2022.
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