The Netherlands will have caught up with the backlog of vaccinations within the next two to three weeks, health minister Hugo de Jonge has told the AD in an interview.
The Netherlands has currently vaccinated just 200,000 people and is at the bottom of lists showing how well countries are performing, leading to widespread political consternation.
However, the arrival of new shipments of vaccine will allow the Netherlands to work faster and ‘in a couple of weeks we will be up to speed’, the minister said. ‘It all boils down to one thing. Are enough vaccines coming in? That determines the speed you can vaccinate at.’
De Jonge said last week that the Netherlands would stop keeping second doses in reserve in an effort to speed up vaccinations. But there is no point in starting to vaccinate 24/7 because ‘in two weeks time you would have nothing to do’ because supplies were finished, he told the AD.
‘I realise that everyone is looking over my shoulder and of course I don’t like us being at the bottom of the lists,’ the minister told the paper. ‘Some of that is down to our slow start and some to more cautious supply management than in other countries. We noted that deliveries are changing week by week, and that explains our initial caution.’
Politicians and health experts have criticised the Dutch approach for being slow and bureaucratic. On Thursday evening, Ernst Kuipers, head of hospital acute care services, told television talk show Jinek that speed is of the essence. ‘Hospitals can help, family doctors can help,’ he said.
Meanwhile, Amsterdam based European Medicines Agency is due to give its verdict on the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday afternoon, amid confusion about how effective it is for different age groups and concerns about the supply.
The European Union was due to receive 80 million doses of the vaccine in the first three months of 2021, but last Friday the Oxford-based company said only around 31 million doses would be available. The EU is embroiled in heated discussions with the company on solving the supply issues.
De Jonge warned a week ago that problems with delivering the AstraZeneca vaccine could hold up the Dutch vaccination schedule still further.
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