Experts critical about speed of Dutch vaccination strategy
The Netherlands has 600 thousand doses of coronavirus vaccines in stock, most of which is needed as a safety stock in case deliveries fall short, according to outgoing Health Minister Hugo de Jonge. But various experts told Nieuwsuur that this backup stock can be much smaller and the injections faster.
De Jonge said in a press conference on Tuesday that the vaccination pace will increase from about 250 thousand injections a week, to more than 500 thousand next week. But according to him, an even faster pace is not possible despite the large stock.
The speed of vaccination "depends entirely on the speed at which the vaccines are delivered," he said. The doses kept on hand are the minimum safety stock needed to avoid having to cancel second dose appointments in the event of disappointing deliveries, he said, referring to AstraZeneca only delivering 40 percent of promised vaccines to the EU in the second quarter.
But experts Nieuwsuur spoke to disagree.
"The need is so great that I think it is unwise to keep so much safety stock," vaccination expert Herman van der Weide, who was responsible for the swine flu vaccination program in 2009, said to Nieuwsuur. "People who have not been vaccinated die every day. That is extremely sad. Make sure you have the option to vaccinate 24/7."
Health economist Maarten Postma also thinks the size of the safety stock can be reduced. "I would like to argue for an even greater acceleration by perhaps vaccinating 24/7 like in other countries, or by also using pharmacists."
Postma thinks the Ministry could even consider abandoning the safety stock completely. Like ICU expert Ernst Kuipers, he wants to use all the reserved doses to give as many people as possible their first shot. "Give as many people as possible a first shot. Go as quickly as possible towards a vaccination rate of 60 percent so that we achieve a kind of herd immunity with each other," he said.
Van der Weiden also thinks the focus should be on doing "everything possible to vaccinate as much as possible now, if necessary with one shot". According to him, this would mean that everyone could easily be partly vaccinated by June 1. "Vaccines now remain on the shelf. For heaven's sake, inject them."