Coronavirus vaccination strategy confirmed by Dutch government
Elderly people, medically vulnerable people, and healthcare workers who are in direct contact with Covid-19 patients will be the first people in the Netherlands to be vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus. The Dutch Cabinet decision means it will move forward with the advice it received earlier this week from its healthcare advisory board.
"The sooner these people are protected from the virus, the sooner we can move beyond the most restrictive measures," the Health Ministry said in a statement. The Cabinet has set aside 700 million euros to purchase vaccines, and estimated the logistical cost of vaccinating the public at between 900 million and 1 billion euros.
The vaccines will be provided free of charge to members of the public. The decision to get vaccinated will be voluntary, the Cabinet said in a statement, reaffirming what Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said at a press conference earlier this week.
The advice from the Gezondheidsraad focused on the elderly and medically vulnerable population because they are the most likely to require hospitalization if they become infected with the virus. The very first doses, which De Jonge expected to arrive in the Netherlands during the first quarter of 2021, will go towards inoculating the 155 thousand nursing home residents, people with intellectual disabilities living in an institution, and the employees of those facilities.
After that, those over 60 with an underlying medical condition will be eligible for the vaccination, starting with the oldest people. From there, those over 60 without an underlying condition will be next in line, followed by anyone under 60 with such medical issues, and health care workers who come in contact with Covid-19 patients.
“The vaccine is our most important asset to overcome this crisis, to put the pandemic behind us," De Jonge said on Friday. "Yet it is not the vaccine that will make the difference, but vaccination. It is the injection in the upper arm that prevents disease, and saves lives, and ensures that we can pick up our old life bit by bit."
By the end of the first quarter, De Jonge believes that 3.5 million people will be vaccinated. There are an estimated five million people in the Netherlands who are elderly, have underlying medical conditions, or who are care workers with Covid-19 patients. Some 17.4 million people were living in the Netherlands at the start of 2020.
The first vaccine deliveries are expected to come from AstraZeneca (11.7 million doses ordered) and Pfizer/BioNTech (7.8 million). A report in Reuters published this week said that the European Union was paying 15.50 euros per dose delivered by Pfizer. A decision on the safety of these two vaccine candidates was expected from the European Medicines Agency by the end of the year.
The EMA was also expected to decide on vaccines from Moderna and Johnson&Johnson, the latter having been developed by Leiden-based pharmaceutical firm Janssen. A deal with Moderna for 3.1 million units was still being negotiated, with 7.8 million doses of the Janssen vaccine pre-ordered. Deals were also closed with Curevac for 8.8 million units, and Sanofi for 11.7 million doses.
All vaccine candidates except the Janssen product were expected to require two doses per person.