No 17 - 2023

The 2022 annual report on the Danish childhood vaccination programme has been released

The 2022 annual report on the Danish childhood vaccination programme has been released

Since 2014, the Danish Health Authority, the Danish Medicines Agency and Statens Serum Institut have jointly prepared an annual report on the Danish childhood vaccination programme. The 2022 report has now been released.

Traditionally, the report is published in the course of Week 17 in connection with the European Immunization Week, which every year focuses on the importance of childhood immunisation in the WHO’s Europe Region. This year, the information campaign focuses on informing the public of the importance of timely vaccination and catching up on any overlooked or postponed vaccines while continuing to stress the need for COVID-19 vaccination, particularly among vulnerable groups.

The Danish vaccination programmes are essential to public health and have contributed to curbing the spread of a vide range of serious diseases. In Denmark, the childhood vaccination programme enjoys a high coverage worthy of recognition, and, compared with other European countries, we are at the very forefront in this field. According to new population studies, parents generally have a high and stable level of trust in the Danish healthcare authorities’ childhood vaccination recommendations. We are humbled by this fact and will continuously make every effort to live up to the trust deposited in us by Danish parents.

Various of the diseases against which we vaccinate in the childhood vaccination programme are now practically eradicated in Denmark, among others because so many children have ben vaccinated. However, the conditions covered by the childhood vaccination programme remain present in other countries and may return to Denmark unless we keep vaccinating. Therefore, it remains important to continue vaccinating and to maintain the high vaccination coverage.

Statens Serum Institut monitors the coverage of the vaccination programme, contributes to qualifying the causes of lacking vaccination and follows the prevalence of vaccine-preventable conditions nationally and internationally alike. Generally, the coverage of the vaccines in the childhood vaccination programme has been high and stable in recent years. Even during the corona epidemic, the coverage of the Danish childhood vaccination programme was on a par with the preceding years even though the vaccines were administered at a slight delay during the first lockdown. In 2022, however, a slight decline was observed in the coverage of HPV vaccination, as described in detail in the annual report. The childhood vaccination programme is monitored closely. This includes monitoring of vaccination coverage to ensure that we remain aware of even minor declines in vaccination coverage. Therefore, we can act rapidly.

The high Danish vaccination coverage must under no circumstances be taken for granted. The Danish health authorities therefore collaborate closely with relevant health stakeholders, e.g., general practitioners and municipal and regional staff. This close collaboration serves to ensure that new and relevant activities are initiated and that the vaccination recommendations are well-founded and transparent. Some of the good initiatives initiated in 2022 are described in the annual report. To take an example, in the past few years, health visitors have attended educational days to become vaccination ambassadors. This initiative has enjoyed considerable support, and approx. 180 health visitors across Denmark have participated in the educational days and have become vaccination ambassadors.

In the annual report, we have, for the first time ever, decided to adopt an international perspective by including information about refugee flows from the Ukraine and about international disease outbreaks, including, among others, measles, observed in the past year. The international perspective serves to capture the importance of maintaining a high vaccination coverage and keep vaccinating against conditions that have not been observed in Denmark for many years.

Additionally, the Danish Health Authority has completed population studies to explore attitudes and behaviours related to vaccination. The results of these studies will be used to plan and adapt the population vaccination programmes and also serve to give the Danish Health Authority a snapshot of how their communication and campaigns are being received by the Danish population.

Furthermore, one of the studies comprised a unique questionnaire that facilitates measuring of vaccination doubts in the population.

The Danish Medicines Agency continuously monitors and assesses any side effects of the vaccines comprised by the Danish childhood vaccination programme in collaboration with international authorities. The total annual number of adverse event reports has followed a declining trend since 2015. The explanation may be that the reports are affected by the focus adopted by the media or the general population. The overwhelming majority of adverse event reports related to childhood vaccines are not serious. Even so, it is important to monitor if any new events occur that need to be studied in detail.

A new digital universe of the Danish Health Authority embracing the childhood vaccination programme was launched in 2022. The universe was coined: “A shot in the right direction” (Danish language: “Et prik i den rigtige retning”). The new digital universe is but one of the initiatives launched in 2022 to underpin information efforts related to the childhood vaccination programme. The universe presents information about the vaccination programme in an accessible, interactive and engaging design prepared keeping in mind parents’ preferred information channels.

We conclude that Denmark is on the right track with respect to the coverage of the Danish childhood vaccination programme. We are, indeed, and should be incredibly proud of that.

We hope that the annual report will contribute to inspire to participation in and provide information about the Danish childhood vaccination programme.
(S. Brostrøm, Danish Health Authority, H. Ullum, Statens Serum Institut, and L.B. Nielsen, the Danish Medicines Agency)

24 April 2023