Dutch government hopes to start coronavirus vaccinations in January
On Tuesday, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge announced that, should everything go according to plan, he was hoping to start vaccinating people in the Netherlands against coronavirus in the first week of January 2021.
Start vaccinations in early January
This announcement comes after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) received approval applications for both the Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and hopes to issue a judgement on the Pfizer vaccine by December 29. Should this happen, the European Commission could approve the vaccine for distribution before the end of 2020.
De Jonge is hoping to start distributing the vaccine in January, but highlighted that this “is the most favourable scenario.” In a statement, he emphasised the importance of safety over speed, but was hopeful about the coming weeks: “The vaccine is now within reach and we are on the brink of a new phase in this crisis. A phase of hope and a new perspective. It is now up to EMA to do its job carefully. We will ensure that we are ready as soon as the green light comes.”
The Dutch coronavirus vaccination strategy
On November 20, the Dutch government published its final vaccination strategy for the country. As was predicted, they followed the advice issued by the Health Council of the Netherlands, which advised that the elderly, those with pre-existing medical conditions and healthcare workers be first in line to receive the vaccination.
However, the government also outlined all the uncertainties that could lead to a change in the strategy. For example, it is not yet clear whether the Pfizer vaccine will be effective for the elderly, and so, should this be the first available vaccine, it may be necessary to vaccinate other groups first.
They also confirmed that vaccination in the Netherlands would be free and voluntary. The government will work closely with the GGD, the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM), and GPs and doctors to prepare for when the first vaccine is approved, and ensure that it is distributed fairly and effectively.
Concerns that the government isn't doing enough
While the past few weeks have seen significant and substantial developments in the world of coronavirus vaccines, some have voiced concerns about the Dutch government’s vaccination strategy. The Christian National Trade Union (CNV) have revealed that they fear the cabinet’s vaccination plans for the Netherlands are insufficient, stating that a large-scale vaccination plan must be established, and quickly.
“The vaccination of millions of people is an immense, unprecedented operation like never before seen in the Netherlands. However, the cabinet plan is hardly in favour of this,” says union chairman Piet Fortuin. He would like to see the Netherlands follow in Germany’s footsteps and speed up the conversion of test sites into vaccination sites.
Furthermore, healthcare organisations ActiZ and Verenco worry that De Jonge’s plan to start vaccinations in early January is unrealistic. While they both say they would love to start vaccinations as soon as possible, Verenco says starting in the first week of January seems “quite ambitious.” They state there are still too many unknowns.