Dutch unlikely to give AstraZeneca Covid vaccine to over-65s
The Covid-19 vaccine produced by AstraZeneca should not be given to people in the Netherlands who are aged 65 and up, or to people with a troubled immune system, the country's health council wrote in a letter to Hugo de Jonge, the outgoing health minister. In its advisory statement, the Gezondheidsraad told De Jonge that the vaccine should be quickly administered to people between the ages of 60 and 64.
The advisory board said that the vaccine is "effective, sufficiently safe and acceptable," noting that "it triggers an immune response in older people that is comparable to people aged 18-55." It said it could not fully determine the efficacy for people aged 56 and up because there were few participants in those age groups during the phase three trials. The concern was even greater for people from 65 years of age "because the immune system begins to function less effectively with age."
It argued that the first available doses should be used to inoculate people aged 60 through 64, and those with medical conditions that put them at a higher risk of serious illness or death caused by Covid-19. The Gezondheidsraad made specific mention of people with Down's Syndrome, those with neurological disorders that affect breathing, and anyone who is considered morbidly obese.
Instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine, people with a poor immune system should be given a mRNA vaccine like the products made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. The advice from the Gezondheidsraad was produced at the request of the Ministry of Health, it said.
AstraZeneca's vaccine was developed with Oxford University, and became the third Covid-19 vaccine to win approval from the European Medicines Agency. It was the candidate which De Jonge had made a key aspect of the country's initial vaccination strategy, forcing the ministry to adapt their plans repeatedly once the Pfizer vaccine was approved in December.
The Netherlands expects to take delivery of 11.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the end of September, including 675 thousand by the end of February. The first shipment could arrive as early as Friday, De Jonge said in a letter to Parliament this week.
Two doses are required for maximum efficacy, with the second injection taking place between four and 12 weeks after the first.