Denmark says it will loan 55,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to neighbouring Germany.
The Danish Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement that the unwanted vaccines would be donated to the German border state of Schleswig-Holstein.
“Following a request from the Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein, the government has decided to make 55,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine available to the border region,” the ministry said.
“The vaccine doses will be returned after an agreed timeframe,” the statement added.
Denmark was the first European country to announce that it was abandoning AstraZeneca’s jab (Vaxzevria) over concerns of “rare” but “serious” side effects.
Norway’s Public Health Institute also recommended against further use of the jab, despite recommendations by the European Medicines Agency and World Health Organization (WHO).
Denmark’s health authority has continued the rollout of the vaccines using other jabs developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
But Denmark has indicated that it may reintroduce the AstraZeneca vaccine at a later date “if the situation changes”. The country has an estimated stockpile of 200,000 doses of Vaxzevria.
A number of European countries – including Latvia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic – had expressed interest in purchasing unwanted AstraZeneca vaccines from Denmark.
The director of WHO for Europe, Hans Kluge, said last week that Danish authorities are considering sharing unused doses with poorer countries.
On Tuesday, Denmark’s government said they had “not yet decided” what to do with the other surplus vaccines, but were in dialogue with several countries.
“If we can do a swap deal with some countries where we send AstraZeneca vaccines to them and get some of their Pfizer vaccines back, that is of course extremely interesting,” said Health Minister Magnus Heunicke.
It is still not clear whether vaccine deals are possible and permitted under EU procurement rules.
Details of the loan of 55,000 vaccines to Germany were agreed upon by Denmark’s National Serum Institute and relevant authorities in Kiel.
Germany, like other EU member states, has limited AstraZeneca doses to certain age groups, only recommending the jab for citizens aged over 60.
“We are very pleased and grateful that our neighbouring country Denmark has agreed to provide 55,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine … for our vaccination campaign,” said Daniel Günther, Minister-President of Schleswig-Holstein.
“On behalf of the state government, I would like to express my gratitude for this very trusting cooperation.”
“Already, our vaccination campaign in Schleswig-Holstein has gained momentum – the additional doses would now allow us to move even faster,” he added in a statement.