Government urged to help vaccinate Dutch citizens abroad


A Dutch expats’ group has called on the government not to overlook people living in countries with high coronavirus infections in its vaccine planning.

The organisation Stichting Nederlanders Buiten Nederland (SNBN) has called for the rules on travel to be changed to make it easier for Dutch citizens to be vaccinated while visiting their families.

They also say the Netherlands should follow the lead of countries such as Portugal and Germany in offering vaccines to people living in countries such as India and Peru where infection levels are much higher.

SNBN has written to foreign affairs minister Sigrid Kaag, infrastructure minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, the parliamentary health committee and Dutch MEPs urging them not to neglect citizens living abroad.

‘The Dutch government recently announced it was allocating 700,000 vaccines to Surinam “because of the special relationship”,’ SNBN wrote. ‘SNBN sees this as a wonderful gesture.

‘The Dutch government also has a special relationship with its citizens living in other countries. Therefore we would like to see the Netherlands take similar steps to help vulnerable Dutch citizens living abroad, perhaps in co-operation with other European countries.’

SNBN said the government should identify which Dutch expats are ‘vulnerable’ because of underlying health conditions and work with its European partners to ensure they can be vaccinated where they live, if they are unable to obtain a jab through local health services.

It also said people who wanted to have their vaccine in the Netherlands faced too many restrictions and bureaucratic hurdles.

The RIVM’s guidelines say anyone staying in the Netherlands for longer than a month should be offered a vaccination. But they also ask people who have received their first vaccine to stay in the country until they have had the second jab.

SNBN says the requirement is unrealistic and expats who travel to the Netherlands for a vaccine should be given the single-shot Janssen jab to avoid delays.

Citizens living abroad also have to acquire a social security number and a DigiD registration before they travel, but this is often impossible because embassy and consular buildings are closed under coronavirus rules, SNBN says.

SNBN also called for the testing rules for incoming travellers to be simplified now that more people are protected by the vaccine. The two tests required before travelling should be replaced by one ‘affordable, simple and accessible’ rapid test and abolished altogether for people who have been vaccinated or are classed as low-risk.

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