FULL CLAIM: Denmark banned COVID-19 vaccines for anyone under 50
In September 2022, the claim that Denmark banned COVID-19 vaccination for those under 50 went viral, thanks to social media posts such as this video by Clay Travis, owner of sports media outlet OutKick and this tweet by British social commentator Toby Young. The posts went further, claiming that this ban was because COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe.
However, the claims are inaccurate. They distort and misrepresent the message of the Danish Health Authority in its recent update to COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, in an attempt by some to propagate the false narrative that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous.
The recommendation by the Danish Health Authority is that people aged 50 and above will be offered booster doses, because the risk of developing severe COVID-19 increases with age. The agency explained that a larger number of infections is expected during autumn and winter, and since COVID-19 is seasonal, “we therefore want to vaccinate those having the highest risk so that they are protected from severe illness if they become infected”.
However, the recommendation isn’t limited only to those above 50. Those working in the healthcare and elderly care sector, as well as social service workers who have close contact with vulnerable populations will be offered booster doses, with no age restrictions. The same goes for relatives of vulnerable people. Finally, people below 50 who have health conditions that place them at risk of severe COVID-19, such as a weakened immune system, will also be offered booster doses.
The Danish Health Authority also explained that booster doses wouldn’t generally be offered to those under 50, since this population isn’t considered to be at a high risk of severe illness and also because a high level of immunity in the population is already present due to vaccination and previous infection. It didn’t state that a concern for vaccine safety was what motivated the recommendation.
More importantly, this recommendation doesn’t constitute a ban on COVID-19 vaccines, contrary to claims by Berenson, Travis, and others. The recommendation has to do with booster doses, not the primary COVID-19 vaccination series. And while Denmark did halt its mass vaccination program in April 2022, meaning that people are no longer sent invitations to get vaccinated, they can still choose to get the vaccine if they wish. Indeed, people were encouraged to complete their primary vaccination series if they had already started.
That said, changes regarding vaccination recommendations for those below 18 have changed over time, since the agency considers that “[c]hildren and adolescents rarely become severely ill from the Omicron variant of covid-19”:
“From 1 July 2022, it was no longer possible for children and adolescents aged under 18 to get the first injection and, from 1 September 2022, it was no longer possible for them to get the second injection.”
The vast majority of the Danish population has been vaccinated against COVID-19. Indeed, more than 80% of the total population had already completed the primary vaccination series by April 2022. It was this level of high vaccine coverage, coupled with falling numbers of COVID-19 cases, that enabled Denmark to stop broad vaccination efforts.
The COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be effective at reducing the risk of severe COVID-19 and death. Their benefits outweigh their risks. The claim that Denmark banned COVID-19 vaccination for those under 50 is inaccurate, baseless, and distorts the meaning of the Danish Health Authority’s COVID-19 booster recommendation.
Proportion of people in Denmark who completed the initial COVID-19 vaccination series. Source: Our World in Data.