Doctors have cast doubt over health minister Hugo de Jonge’s pledge that coronavirus vaccinations could begin as soon as the first week of January.
Ella Kalsbeek, chair of the national family doctors’ association LHV, said most medical practices were not able to store the vaccine at the very low temperatures required, especially as it needs to be given in two doses.
Kalsbeek said she was ‘surprised’ by De Jonge’s assertion that the vaccination programme could begin on January 4, subject to clearance from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
‘You need to be careful not to raise people’s expectations too high,’ she told NOS. ‘Before you know it people will be thinking: “January? So maybe I can go skiing in February.” You really can’t.’
De Jonge said on Tuesday that arrangements were being made to start vaccinations as soon as possible. Priority will be given to people with health conditions, the elderly and frontline care workers.
The EMA is due to present its recommendation to the European Commission by December 29 so the vaccine can be formally approved.
‘It is now up to the EMA to get to work diligently. We will make sure we are ready as soon as we get the green light.’
The Netherlands has ordered enough doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine this month to immunise 450,000 people, while 400,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine are due to be delivered in the first quarter of 2021.
Pfizer says its version can be kept for up to five days in a regular fridge after being taken out of cold storage. Kalsbeek said the need to keep large doses of vaccines frozen meant regional health services and nursing homes were better placed to administer it.
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