Denmark is the world's largest supplier of mink fur. Photo by Patrick Reijnders/Wikimedia Commons
Nov. 4 (UPI) -- The Danish government said Wednesday that it will slaughter millions of mink as a mutated version of the coronavirus capable of infecting humans discovered in the mammal may degrade the effectiveness of vaccines.
Mette Frederiksen, the prime minister of Denmark, made the announcement during a press conference Wednesday, stating that evidence shows the mutated coronavirus prevents the body from producing antibodies, potentially reducing the effectiveness of a vaccine when one is developed.
"The conclusion from the Statens Serum Institut is quite clear: Continued mink breeding during an ongoing COVID-19 epidemic entails a significant risk to public health, including the possibilities for preventing COVID-19 with vaccines," she said, referring to guidance from the government's public health and infectious disease department.
Denmark, the largest producer of mink fur, has between 15 and 17 million of the rodents, and the armed forces will be deployed to the 1,500 mink farms to perform the culling.
"Our opportunity to get on the other side of the coronavirus is a vaccine that people around the world are working at high pressure to develop," Frederiksen said. "Of course, it is absolutely crucial that a new vaccine works in the best possible way."
The prime minister said she has "great sympathy" for the farmers affected by this decision but it is not only for the sake of protecting those who are at risk of becoming seriously ill from the mutated coronavirus but for the sake of Denmark, the entire world "and so our whole joint effort has not been in vain."
Denmark has been experiencing skyrocketing infections since early October, reporting a record of more than 1,350 cases on Tuesday, according to a live tracker of the virus by Johns Hopkins University.
Researchers at the Baltimore-based institute said Denmark has recorded more than 51,000 COVID-19 infections and 729 deaths.