Monday 17 January 2022

Health ministry targets communities in push to drive up vaccine rate

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Local health authorities are stepping up efforts to improve the vaccination rate in communities and age groups where the take-up rate is low.

Health minister Hugo de Jonge said at last week’s press conference that targeted messages would be aimed at the under-25 age group, 76% of whom said they are willing to have the coronavirus jab.

Poorer communities and ethnic minorities are also less willing to be immunised, according to surveys, and more likely to be deterred because they cannot travel to vaccination centres or have difficulties understanding the system.

The health ministry has set a target of immunising at least 85% of the adult population. Latest surveys show 87% have either been vaccinated already or intend to have the jab, but health experts fear that a ‘vaccination gap’, with concentrations of unvaccinated adults in some communities, will undermine collective immunity.

Amsterdam has launched a campaign focusing on international residents, including students, to ensure they are properly informed about how to get vaccinated.

International residents

‘This is necessary to stop the virus from spreading and it is important to give every citizen equal access to information regarding healthcare,’ said Sjoerd Warmerdam, a councillor for the D66 party.

‘Expats and international students are part of this city and we should include them in the vaccination campaign.’

In Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Friesland, the health ministry is sending ‘jab buses’ into communities to give on-the-spot vaccines to people who have difficulty arranging appointments or travelling to a vaccine centre.

Ice-cream and herring

Rotterdam is trying to reach people in minority communities by sending children home from school with letters for their parents explaining how they can get the vaccine.

‘From next week they’ll be able to go to a small-scale location in their neighbourhood for information or to get a jab,’ a spokesman for GGD Rotterdam-Rijnmond told NOS.

Other health boards have used gimmicks to persuade more people to take up the vaccine. Rotterdam has set up a ‘selfie wall’ to encourage young people to share pictures of their vaccinated arms on social media.

The Hollands-Midden region, which includes Leiden, handed out free ice-creams, Utrecht has put on live classical music in the waiting room at TivoliVredenburg, while the fishing port of IJmuiden dangled traditional soused herring over people’s noses.

Other regions, however, were banking on Dutch parsimony to get them through. ‘A fun event? We’ve got free vaccines!’, a spokesman for Drenthe’s GGD retorted.

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