Dutch Cabinet plans to start vaccinating against coronavirus on January 4
The Dutch government announced on Tuesday that it will begin inoculate the public against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus on January 4 if European regulators issue their approval to distribute one of the candidate vaccines. Earlier in the day, the European Medicines Agency said it had started its evaluation of the vaccine developed by Moderna, and another created in a partnership between Pfizer and BioNTech.
“The vaccine is now within reach and we are on the eve of a new phase in this crisis," Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said in a statement. "It is now up to EMA to do its job carefully. We will ensure that we are ready as soon as the green light comes," he stated.
De Jonge said that "this really is the best-case scenario." He cautioned that optimism should be tempered by the possibility that the EMA and the European Commission investigation happens more slowly than hoped, adding that, "safety comes before speed."
In the meantime, De Jonge said the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport will begin mounting the logistics needed to launch a wide-scale vaccination program. According to the country's vaccination strategy, elderly people, medically vulnerable people and healthcare workers who come into contact with Covid-19 patients will be the first to get their shots. The vaccine will be provided to residents free of charge, and on a voluntary basis.
If given approval, the Netherlands expects to take delivery of enough doses of the Pfizer vaccine in December to inoculate 450 thousand people. More shipments of 1.6 million doses through the first three months of next year could provide vaccinations to 800 thousand others.
"A decision on Moderna's vaccine is expected in mid-January, EMA reports," the ministry said. It could provide 400 thousand doses to the Netherlands by the end of March. Like the Pfizer treatment, it also requires two doses for maximum effectiveness, and would thus protect about 200 thousand people.
The European Union has deals with four other vaccine candidates, including AstraZeneca, Curevac, Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen, and Sanofi. All but one require two doses. The Netherlands would gain access to 50 million vaccine doses in total if all six are approved, which can be used on over 29 million people.
The Netherlands is set to acquire 3.89 percent of all vaccine units produced for the European Union. Only pricing of the Pfizer vaccine has been leaked, at an estimated price of 15.50 euros per dose. The Netherlands has set aside 700 million euros to purchase vaccines, and estimated the logistical costs of transportation, storage, and inoculation at between 900 million and a billion euros.