Saturday 18 September 2021

Health boards to target schools to tackle low teen vaccination rate

Photo: DutchNews.nl

Several of the Netherlands’ 25 regional health boards are hoping to provide information about the coronavirus vaccine directly in schools and in some cases to actually offer jabs, the Volkskrant reported on Tuesday.

Just 43% of the country’s 12 to 18-year-olds have currently been vaccinated and officials are concerned about possible outbreaks if that percentage is not increased.

The West Brabant health board, for example, has an agreement to vaccinate children attending classes for new arrivals in the Netherlands in Breda and Bergen op Zoom, the paper said.

Amsterdam officials are in talks on providing information in schools and in Drenthe and Utrecht ‘teenagers are on the agenda’, although no concrete plans for approaching them have yet been finalised.

‘We do know that some health boards (GGDs) are developing their regional initiatives with schools to vaccinate this age group,’ a spokesman for the health board association told the paper.

‘But let us be very clear, health boards do not put pressure on people to get vaccinated. Nothing is compulsory,’ the spokesman said.

Teenagers have been able to make an appointment to be vaccinated since July 2. But although 72% have said they plan to do so in surveys, the vaccination rate is still well below 50%. The under 16s also need the permission of their parents to have a jab.

No concerns

A spokesman for the public health institute RIVM said it is too early as yet to worry about the low take-up rate. ‘It is the holidays, we can’t draw any conclusions,’ a spokesman said.

The secondary school association has welcomed the initiatives to motivate teenagers to get vaccinated. ‘We know the health risks at school are bigger if fewer pupils are vaccinated,’ a spokesman said. ‘But we are also cautious. There can be no pressure.’

Schools start going back from August 22 in the northern holiday region and the government is due to outline what coronavirus measures they should take on August 13.

Before the break, secondary school pupils were required to keep 1.5 metres distance from teachers and were offered two free self-tests a week. Face masks were also required outside classes.

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