Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

21.42 22 Feb 2021


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An Irish academic based in Denmark says the country's efficient vaccine rollout is the result of 'years of advance planning and investment' in the healthcare system.

Denmark has made headlines in recent days after setting the target of June 27th for the full vaccination of the population - meaning anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one.

It has led to calls for Ireland to aim for the same end of June target, as we're similarly reliant on the EU for supplies.

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While Denmark's vaccination rate is currently slightly higher than Ireland, the June target for full vaccination is significantly earlier than the September target previously mentioned by ministers here.

Dr Graham Butler is an associate professor of Law at Aarhus University in Denmark, and he told The Hard Shoulder he's expecting to be able to get a vaccine in May or June.

He said: “Even with a full vaccine rollout coming into the summer, nobody is talking about summer holidays abroad or anything like it. People are still working from home where possible.

“I wouldn’t say there’s any great jubilation about it until things manifest themselves… everyone is reliant on supplies of vaccine being rolled out, whether you’re in Denmark or Ireland.

“Like in Ireland, there are targeted groups… if you’re over the age of 18 and below the age of 65… you’re at the back of the queue."

He said Denmark has a highly efficient and digitised health system - but told Kieran that does come at a cost.

He explained: "We pay much higher levels of taxation… the State controls much more activity.

"That’s been a deliberate choice over decades, but people are satisfied paying that level as they see concrete results.”

Dr Butler said the Danish state collects large amounts of personal health data from the likes of doctors' appointments - something he's not sure everyone in Ireland would be comfortable with.

However, he said if Irish people are willing to accept the approach taken in Denmark then 'they will see the results'.

Life in Denmark

For now, life in Denmark remains 'reasonably quiet' due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Dr Butler said there are some differences there compared to Ireland - such as more 'click and collect' retail, and no 5km travel limit.

However, he did point to one 'startling' difference in the restrictions: schools and childcare.

He explained: “Rather than taking a broad brush approach and saying all schools must close - which they have in Ireland, which is objectively crazy - they’ve said we’re going to keep them open as far as possible.

"If there’s a COVID outbreak in a class, that class will be sent home until further notice. The class will not be reconvened for a week until each child has undergone two negative corona tests.

“That is possible because of the public testing system in place, which I must say is rather efficient and very good. One of my own children has been tested five times.

“I wonder why that is not being done in Ireland - we’re a year into this pandemic."

He said the robust testing approach in schools is particularly beneficial to working parents, as even working from home is not possible to the same extent when there are children at home all day.

Main image: File photo. Picture by: Liselotte Sabroe/AP/Press Association Images

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