Dutch government to introduce new strategy to speed up vaccinations
Before the press conference on Tuesday, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge is expected to present a new vaccination strategy that should speed up vaccinations and limit vaccine waste in the Netherlands.
Dutch doctors note low turn out for AstraZeneca appointments
Since December, the Netherlands has received approximately 4,6 million coronavirus vaccine doses, however, only around 3,2 million jabs have been given. With hundreds of thousands of doses left either unused or discarded, De Jonge is striving to meet his target of four million vaccinations by the end of the month.
The waste is mainly due to the recent chaos and uncertainty surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine, Vaxzevria. Enthusiasm among 60- to 64-year-olds to receive the jab after so much debate on its safety has waned: a study conducted by I&O Research found that 42 percent of over-60s don’t want to receive Vaxzevria, with 58 percent of those surveyed saying they would like to have the option to chose which vaccine they receive.
GPs across the Netherlands are also reporting disappointing turnout at vaccination centres, resulting in doctors having to dispose of unused vaccines. A spokesperson for the National General Practitioners Association said many doctors are using surplus doses to vaccinate people between the ages of 65 and 70.
De Jonge to announce new coronavirus vaccination strategy
So, what will the government’s new vaccination strategy look like? De Jonge could present those under the age of 60 with the option to choose whether or not they receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Or he may opt to extend the period between the first and second Pfizer or Moderna jabs from six and four weeks respectively to 12 weeks. The Dutch government hopes this would result in more people being able to receive their first dose.
But the Health Council of the Netherlands highlights that this change in approach would have a very limited effect on coronavirus in the Netherlands. They also emphasise that the second dose should only be delayed if there aren’t enough doses on hand to vaccinate everyone: “When sufficient vaccine is available, the interval should be reduced to that recommended in the product information of the different vaccines," the council writes.
At the beginning of April, the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) announced a change to the national vaccination strategy which would see anyone who had had COVID-19 in the last six months receive only one dose instead of two. Medical experts state that the immunity built up after infection and a single vaccine dose will provide sufficient protection against the virus, but state that this new rule will not apply to anyone who is especially vulnerable.