Dutch government: Under-60s definitely won’t receive AstraZeneca jab
After the European Medicine Agency’s conclusion on the safety of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine was announced on Wednesday, the Dutch government has decided to continue to make use of the jab in the Netherlands, but only among those over the age of 60.
AstraZeneca vaccine reserved for those over the age of 60
On Thursday evening, the Health Council of the Netherlands issued their advice to the government, stating that anyone under the age of 60 should receive a vaccine, just not AstraZeneca. The council felt that the risk posed by COVID-19 in this age group far outweighed the health risk posed by the vaccine. However, they did say that anyone who had already received the first dose should go on to receive the second, regardless of their age.
This advice was based on the fact that the rare but serious side effects that have been recorded were mostly seen in women between the ages of 18 and 60. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge took only a few hours to review the advice before announcing at 8pm that the Netherlands would see that only those over the age of 60 received the AstraZeneca vaccine. According to De Jonge, the jab can be used “properly and safely” for people in this age group.
However, not all the experts were pleased to hear the council’s judgement. Frits Rosendaal, professor of clinical epidemiology at Leiden University Medical Center, is confused and angry, calling the advice completely incomprehensible: “Many people in their fifties are in intensive care with us in Leiden. If you deny that age group vaccines while you have them in stock, you know it can cost lives,” he said.
How will this impact the Netherlands' coronavirus vaccination scheme?
While De Jonge has said he doesn’t yet know how many people under the age of 60 will now see vaccination appointments cancelled in the short-term, the government’s decision is sure to have a significant impact on the vaccination scheme in the Netherlands.
Experts agree that the move to significantly limit the number of people who can receive AstraZeneca will lead to a delay in the short-term. However, Ben van der Zeijst, former director of the Dutch Vaccine Institute and former head of Vaccines at the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM), believes the delay won’t be too significant, and that - as long as the vaccine deliveries go ahead as planned over the coming months - the loss can be made up for by Pfizer, Moderna or Janssen.
In the long-term, De Jonge remains convinced that everyone who wants to be vaccinated will receive at least one jab by the beginning of July. Over the coming weeks, the RIVM will look into what changes need to be made in order to ensure everyone is immunised.