Dutch government changes strategy in bid to vaccinate 2 million by March
The cabinet has announced a change to its policy for stocking vaccine doses, in the hope this will allow significantly more people to be immunised against COVID-19 in the coming weeks.
Coronavirus vaccinations in the Netherlands
Over the past week, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge has been facing tough questions and harsh criticism when it comes to the vaccination strategy in the Netherlands, as politicians, medical experts and members of the public question why the country has been so slow to roll out vaccines. So far, there have been around 376.000 vaccinations, equating to approximately 2 percent of the total population.
But now the cabinet has decided to accelerate vaccinations by reducing the number of doses kept in stock. Up until recently, the Dutch government had a policy which meant that enough vaccines had to be kept in stock to deliver a second dose to everyone who received their first jab, but this was abandoned at the end of January.
These new changes mean that doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines will only be held for a maximum of five days before being rolled out, with the expectation that more doses will be delivered in time to administer the second jab. The government has already decided to extend the period between the two Pfizer vaccines from three weeks to six weeks, while for AstraZeneca there must be 10 to 12 weeks between the two injections.
Upscaling vaccinations: 2 million jabs a week in March
On Tuesday evening, De Jonge announced that, by the end of February, the Netherlands should have carried out two million injections. Heading into spring, around two million vaccinations will be carried out each week. This will mark a huge difference to the current plan; this week, a total of 250.000 jabs are scheduled to take place.
Between now and the end of February, the government expects to receive around 900.000 vaccine doses, over 700.000 of which will be the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine. The government hopes to start rolling out the AstraZeneca vaccine over the coming fortnight.
The Netherlands expects to receive a total of 73,6 million vaccine doses in 2021, 21,9 million of which should arrive by the second quarter of the year. In spite of news that some pharmaceutical companies have had to scale back deliveries, De Jonge remains optimistic that everyone in the Netherlands will be vaccinated by the autumn.