The Dutch health council has declared the AstraZeneca vaccine fit for use for the over 65s after all, and has recommended a single jab for people who had the virus in the last six months.
The cabinet had asked the national health council Gezondheidsraad if the AstraZeneca vaccine can also be used on people over the age of 65, following earlier concerns about its efficacy among older people. However, researchers in Scotland and England have concluded that the vaccine is effective among the over-65s.
Officials now hope that the health council’s recommendations and the extra four million doses of the vaccine to be delivered in the second quarter will speed up the vaccination of the elderly.
However, health minister Hugo de Jonge said at Monday’s press conference that he did not yet know how he was going to put the extra vaccines to use.
At the moment the vaccine is used primarily for 60 to 64 year-olds, people with Down’s syndrome, care workers and people with neurological conditions which affect their lung function. These groups will still be prioritised, the minister said.
The decision to give people who have had the virus in the last six months a single jab is a logical one, immunology professor Marjolein van Egmond told the Volkskrant.
‘The second booster jab a is way to instruct the immune system again to act against the virus. But if you have had the virus the immune system has already been introduced to the virus and that means the first jab takes over as booster jab,’ Van Egmond said.
The question is, however, how quickly this group can be identified. ‘That is still a bit of a puzzle but it could potentially speed up the vaccination campaign,’ van Egmond said.
Over one million people are known to have had coronavirus in the Netherlands, but officials think the true total is much higher.
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