Parliament supports Covid vaccination plan after apologies for mistakes
A majority in parliament threw its support behind the government's vaccination plan on Tuesday, after Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge faced strong criticism from the opposition parties and acknowledged that they made some mistakes in their approach, NOS reports.
The opposition parties mainly criticized the government for taking too long to start Covid-19 vaccinations. The Netherlands is the last country in the European Union to start, with the first vaccination happening at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday. The vaccines already arrived two weeks ago and were kept in a freezer since.
GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver called it unacceptable that two weeks have been lost. PvdA leader Lodewijk Asscher called it a failure. Multiple parties said that the government's policy is wobbling.
Far-right party PVV filed a motion of no confidence against De Jonge. "You are not the right man in the right place," PVV leader Geert Wilders said. The motion got support from DENK, FvD, and parliamentarian Henk Krol - by far not enough to pass.
PvdA leader Asscher called Wilders' accusations "not fair", emphasizing that the Health Minister is facing many difficult tasks and that not all problems can be blamed on him personally.
De Jonge acknowledged that his approach could have been better and that the Netherlands could have started vaccinating people against the coronavirus earlier, shortly after Christmas. He also apologized for saying last month that other European countries' first vaccinations in December were mainly "symbolic".
But despite these mistakes and the criticism from opposition parties, De Jonge will not step down, he said in the debate. "I like to take responsibility. That is how I live life. That is part of making mistakes."
Prime Minister Rutte also acknowledged that the cabinet had made some mistakes. "I am really disappointed that we were behind other countries for two weeks," he said.
Parliament decided to support the government's vaccination approach, but asked that the Ministers look into whether vulnerable elderly people can be vaccinated as soon as possible. They were initially first in line, but now some care workers will be getting the first vaccines. This is because the currently available vaccine, by Pfizer and BionTech, only comes in large packages and can therefore only be administered in large locations. Vulnerable elderly people cannot go to these locations.
More details about who will be vaccinated when in the Netherlands can be found here.