18,000 Dutch teens say no meningococcus vaccine

Of the nearly 132 thousand Dutch 13- and 14-year-olds who were invited to get a free vaccination against the meningococcus bacteria in the autumn of 2018, around 18 thousand ignored the call. The national turnout percentage is 86.5 percent. The lowest turnout was in Zeeland and Amsterdam, only 72 to 77 percent of teens went to get vaccinated, AD reports based on figures from public health institute RIVM.

The turnout percentage differs considerably per region. Where less than three quarters of teenagers got vaccinated in Zeeland, in Drenthe 92 percent went to be vaccinated against the deadly bacteria. Zeeland is part of the so-called bible belt, where many aren't vaccinated for religious reasons, according to the newspaper. 

The figures also show that 41 people died from meningococcal type W since 2015. Last year the bacteria claimed 22 lives in the Netherlands, and two in January of this year. Before 2015 the bacteria rarely showed up in the Netherlands.

To prevent a further outbreak, some 860 thousand 14 to 18 year olds will be invited to get a free vaccination this spring. This group seems to be particularly sensitive to the bacteria - 28 percent of 14 to 24 year olds who contracted the disease died. The RIVM stresses that by getting the vaccination, teenagers are not only protecting themselves, but also their siblings, parents and grandparents. 

State Secretary Paul Blokhuis of Public Health, responsible for the national vaccination program, called the national turnout "very positive", but he is concerned about public health in outliers at the bottom. "That could be potential trouble spots", he said about places like Zeeland and Amsterdam. "We are now calling a team of experts together to find out how we can better reach certain target groups."