Health minister Hugo de Jonge has decided to speed up the Dutch coronavirus vaccination programme by releasing vaccines being held in reserve for second doses for use now, following criticism of the slow Dutch progress.
‘This means that more people can be vaccinated earlier, which is very important given the rise of the ‘British’ variant,’ De Jonge told Wednesday’s press conference. ‘But we are really going to be able to speed up when the Astra Zeneca vaccine comes online. That is the real game changer.’
The Netherlands has gone in big on the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and expects 4.5 million doses in the first quarter of the year and a further 5.2 million shots in the second quarter.
The European Medicines Agency is expected to complete its assessments of the AstraZeneca vaccine at the end of January.
De Jonge also said he was well aware of various rankings showing that the Netherlands has vaccinated far fewer people than other EU countries.
One reason is due to slow reporting and work is being done to speed that up, De Jonge said. To date, he said, the Netherlands has vaccinated 100,000 people.
On Tuesday, De Jonge said that the entire stock of Moderna vaccines will now be released for earlier use, which means family doctors will also be earlier in line for the jab.
The change of policy means that people over the age of 90 who still live at home will be called up for their vaccination from next week and that it will be the turn of 85-year-olds in the first week of February.
De Jonge said delaying the second dose until the sixth week did not present a risk to public health and the new deadline is within the official guidelines.