First coronavirus vaccine in the Netherlands to be given on Jan. 8
A day after the Dutch government was criticized for not being ready to quickly start vaccinating the public against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said the country will administer its first vaccine dose on January 8. The date would rely on the European Medicines Agency giving its approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which has already received the green light in the United Kingdom and the United States.
In a statement, the Ministry of Health said people will be invited to get the vaccine starting on January 4. Those who receive the first invitations can then call to book an appointment. The first group to be inoculated will be care home staff, people who provide care to those with disabilities, in-home nurses, and home healthcare support workers.
"The GGD will vaccinate at three locations in the country by Monday, 11 January at the latest. Vaccinations will take place at 25 central locations from Monday 18 January," the ministry stated. Vaccinations will be carried out daily, and locations will have extended opening hours.
Initially, De Jonge had said he wanted the national rollout of the vaccine to begin on January 4, a plan which was derided as being overly ambitious. He then said this date would likely be delayed by two weeks because of delivery and production delays. On top of that, the Netherlands had expected to receive 900 thousand doses from Pfizer by year-end, a figure which was slashed to 500 thousand with a patient needing two doses to be most protected from the virus.
A logistics researcher at Tilburg University and the Eindhoven University of Technology said the country was ill-prepared to begin distribution based on what he perceived as the government's lack of transparency about its plans. “I don’t understand the fact that RIVM is so vague about logistics. We’ve known for almost a year that these vaccines are being developed,” said Professor Jan Fransoo.
On top of that, there were also questions about the readiness of IT systems at the RIVM and the GGD which need to be set up to log the vaccination procedures.
"In consultation with the GGD and RIVM, a planning has been chosen that is careful, safe and responsible," De Jonge countered in his statement. "Ultimately, the highest possible vaccination coverage is our goal. We can only achieve this if people have confidence in the vaccine and in the vaccination process.”
The Ministry of Health said it expected its first delivery from Pfizer shortly after the vaccine is authorized on the European market. A final delivery schedule and more communication about the vaccination program was forthcoming.