Dutch vaccination strategy ‘will cost lives’ says former RIVM chief

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The former head of Dutch public health institute RIVM has added his voice to the criticism surrounding the Dutch coronavirus vaccination programme, which is starting later than many other countries.

Roel Coutinho told Nieuwsuur on Monday night that it is both ‘surprising’ and ’embarrassing’ that the Netherlands is trailing the rest of the EU. The cabinet, he said, was too late in realising that organising a mass vaccination programme was not the same as administering the annual flu jab. ‘Now we are paying the price,’ Coutinho said.

By vaccinating people later, the healthcare system will be overburdened for longer and more people will suffer, both from coronavirus and other diseases, he said.

‘It sounds dramatic to say it, but of course this is going to cost lives. Every week counts,’ Coutinho said. ‘You can see how essential this is. It is important to start quickly and the Netherlands should be able to do this.’

The Dutch vaccination programme is not starting until January 8 but will not fully gather steam until January 18. The Netherlands has also introduced a halt to all non-essential treatment to free up staff to focus on acute care services and coronavirus because of the pressure on hospitals as Covid-19 cases mount.

The Volkskrant on Monday published a major investigation into the way the Dutch vaccination strategy developed, and said it was not until November that serious efforts were made to organise a mass vaccination programme.

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