Denmark among EU frontrunners in Covid-19 immunisation

The speed at which Denmark has been able to vaccinate the people may be attributed to the coordination of its well-developed medical facilities in all regions

Aarhus in Denmark - NOEL NOOR JETTY

Denmark’s healthcare system is widely acknowledged to be based on the premise that everyone, irrespective of their social situation, must be given access to free healthcare.

The country’s healthcare system offers high-quality services, funded mainly by taxpayers.

Quality healthcare and a comprehensive education system targeted at core areas are the cornerstones of Denmark’s welfare-state policies. Health services in Denmark include nurses’ visits to senior citizens’ homes and school healthcare for pupils.

Expenditure on hospitals accounts for about 43% of total health expenditure. This figure is higher than the 35% average of the countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Denmark has one doctor for every 295 people. The people are designated a specific GP and may receive free medical treatment, including visits to a specialist after the GP’s referral. In Danish hospitals, doctors and nurses dispense the drugs, not pharmacies.

A meticulous plan has enabled Denmark to take the lead among EU nations in vaccinations against the coronavirus pandemic. Denmark is now way ahead of Italy and Slovenia and at a speed almost three times above the average of other EU countries. If more doses had been available, more people would have been vaccinated.

Despite being a small country with a population of slightly less than six million, Denmark has vaccinated almost 7% of the people by mid-February (3% have received both doses), after starting its immunisation exercise on 27 December 2020.

The speed at which Denmark has been able to vaccinate the people may be attributed to the coordination of its well-developed medical facilities in all regions of the country.

An old town in Denmark – NOEL NOOR JETTY

Other contributory factors include the country’s well developed IT infrastructure and logistics network. So, people were swiftly registered, especially in nursing homes, where senior citizens were vaccinated without hindrance.

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Focusing on care homes where the injections are given on-site enabled the vaccination campaign to get off to a good start. To maximise the number of people getting their first dose, Denmark, like several other countries, authorised the second dose to be delayed by up to six weeks in some cases, instead of the recommended three weeks. The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved the move despite some reservations from the manufacturer.

While other countries faced issues like delivery and preserved about 50% of their vaccine allocations to ensure people get their second dose, Denmark bucked the trend. The country went ahead and used the first Pfizer-BioNTech dosages.

Now, the country has also started administering the Moderna vaccine and has decided to set aside half the doses.

Denmark’s strategy is aimed at giving the first inoculations to frontline healthcare workers and those in at-risk groups.

The nation is optimistic about vaccinating most adult Danes by June 2021. Based on opinion polls, about 80% have indicated they want to be vaccinated. The target is to vaccinate 100,000 people a day when there are enough vaccines.

The vaccination rate may decelerate now as ordinary people have to go by themselves to a vaccination centre, unlike those in care homes who received it on site.

After six weeks of a lockdown, Denmark says it has reined in the spread the more contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in the UK.

So far, the nation has reported just over 205,000 cases of Covid-19 with over 2,300 deaths.

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Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen reaffirmed the government’s firm commitment on the vaccine: the moment more vaccines are in Denmark, more people would be inoculated without delay.

The PM’s message can be summed up in one Danish word: samfundssind, which means giving priority to the needs of society above personal interests.

This sense of community spirit should always be instilled in people so that they become more civic-minded.

Before the pandemic, the word samfundssind was seldom used. This word now has different meanings to different people.

To some, samfundssind requires people to observe all the coronavirus guidelines announced by the government.

Others view the word as implying that people should only leave their homes when necessary.

A certain segment of Danish society interprets the word as the volunteering of personal services, time and money to help people affected by the lockdown. 

Has anything heartening been instilled in us amid the pandemic? Definitely. We have seen humanity at its finest. Many have exhibited noble values: witness the unwavering spirit, resilience, dedication and tenacity of frontline workers and NGOs working relentlessly to provide food and amenities to the vulnerable.

This pandemic has also transformed the conscience of many people around the world. I would like to think that more people are now more caring and compassionate – and this is a silver lining amid all the gloom.

Photos by Noel Noor Jetty, former deputy director of Tourism Malaysia, Stockholm. Noel’s stint in Stockholm coincided with the author’s

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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Paul Lim
Paul Lim
22 Feb 2021 8.21pm

What lessons to learn from Malaysia? To have such a good social security and healthcare system based on solidarity implies high taxes. Are Malaysians prepared for that? The Malaysian culture is low taxes.