Sept 11 (NBC) – Denmark has become one of the first countries in the European Union to ease all of the domestic restrictions that were put in place to control the spread of Covid-19.
Government officials lifted the country’s remaining restrictions Friday, including the requirement that people show proof of vaccination through a vaccine passport to enter nightclubs. Denmark’s health ministry said high vaccine uptake has allowed the country to roll back the pandemic control measures.
“The epidemic is under control,” Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said in a statement Aug. 27, when he announced the country will not extend its Covid restrictions after Friday.
More than 83 percent of eligible people over the age of 12 in Denmark are fully vaccinated, according to the Danish Health Authority. The Scandinavian country has recorded an average of around 500 new cases each day for the past week, but the health ministry said mitigation efforts and widespread support for the vaccines no longer require Covid-19 to be categorized as a “socially critical disease.”
Heunicke said Denmark is “in a good place right now” but cautioned that “we are not out of the epidemic,” adding that the government will be quick to reimpose measures, if needed.
The eased restrictions also come after the release of new data on vaccine effectiveness among the Danish population. A study released earlier this month by the Statens Serum Institut in Denmark found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was more than 84 percent effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 from the delta variant, while the vaccine developed by Moderna was nearly 89 percent effective against delta.
Both vaccines were also found to offer strong protection against hospitalization from the delta variant. The study found Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines were 94.4 percent and 100 percent effective, respectively, against severe disease.
Michael Bang Petersen, a professor of political science at Aarhus University in Denmark who advised the Danish government, said gaining public trust was key to vaccine acceptance in the country.
“The basis for an open society is vaccinations. 86 % of all invited (from 12 years and up) have received 1+ dose. 96 % of everyone above 50 are fully vaccinated.” he tweeted Friday. “Throughout the pandemic [Denmark] has had higher acceptance than many comparable countries. No mandates needed.”
Petersen led a project that studied behaviors and attitudes related to the pandemic across eight countries, including Denmark, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and the United States.
Petersen and his colleagues found that trust in how governments and public health officials managed the pandemic was critical for vaccine acceptance. In a study published June 15 in the journal BMJ Open, the researchers found big variations in vaccine acceptance, ranging from 47 percent in France to as high as 83 percent in Denmark.
“Lack of vaccine acceptance is associated with lack of trust in authorities and scientists, conspiratorial thinking and a lack of concern about COVID-19,” the scientists wrote in the study.
Petersen said trust in public health has been “incredibly high” and “completely stable” in Denmark, which helped vaccine rollout efforts across the country. He added that while the government will continue to monitor the situation, he thinks mutual trust between Danish authorities and the public is high enough to weather what comes next.
“Will the lifting of restrictions go well? Who knows,” he tweeted. “New variants may emerge & restrictions reappear. Yet, from a behavioral perspective, I am optimistic about the future.”