No Covid-19 vaccines for those under 50 until June; Second doses not delayed
During a press conference Tuesday evening on the extension of the coronavirus lockdown measures, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said that most adults in the country will not have access to a Covid-19 vaccine until June. He also said that, in general, the process of vaccinating the public will not be sped up by withholding second doses of two-dose vaccines.
"We are injecting as fast as we can", De Jonge said while standing next to Prime Minister Mark Rutte. "I often hear the suggestion: 'Why aren't we injecting 24 hours a day?' Because we do not have vaccines to inject 24 hours a day."
De Jonge stood firm on his commitment to have at least one vaccine dose available for every adult within three months. "By the beginning of July, when the summer vacation starts, anyone who wants to can have a first shot," he stated.
The vaccination process of people over the age of 75 has just begun, and he said he believed that everyone over the age of 70 will have been given a vaccine within about five or six weeks. "While infections are increasing everywhere, infections in nursing homes are decreasing. Now that they have been vaccinated, far fewer people are dying there," he said.
"By vaccinating the elderly first, we have achieved a considerable health benefit."
For those from 60 to 69, all 2.1 million of them, De Jonge said they will have had at least one injection by mid-May. The 2.5 million people in their fifties will have gone through the process by mid-June, he continued.
Data from Statistics Netherlands shows about 4.4 million people in their thirties and forties living in the Netherlands. They will get their turn in June, De Jonge claimed.
There are 2.2 million people in their twenties who should be able to line up by the end of June or early July.
No delayed second doses
Earlier in the day, intensive care leader Ernst Kuipers suggested that the Netherlands should adapt its Covid-19 vaccination strategy "as soon as possible," and get the first dose of a vaccine in as many arms as healthcare workers can handle, even if it means making some wait longer for their second shots. De Jonge was asked about this, with a priority of giving more people with medical conditions their first injections.
"But one shot is really insufficient protection," De Jonge said. "You really have to stick to the information from the package leaflet."
He noted that the Cabinet asked the country's Health Council to investigate the possibility, but the independent advisory only said it was possible for people confirmed to have already been infected with the coronavirus. "Then it works as a booster of the antibodies in those people. So people who have already been through an infection, we will make one appointment for that," he said.
De Jonge also held firm his prediction that the three millionth shot will have been given by the first week of April, a million more by the middle of that month, and another million by the start of May.