Health Min. promises to speed up Covid vaccination after parliament criticism
Multiple parties in parliament are dissatisfied with the government's vaccination policy and the speed it's being implemented. They wonder if reserved stocks are held too long and question the chosen strategy of focusing on risk groups first, instead of just focusing on getting everyone vaccinated. Departing Health Minister Hugo de Jonge promised to do everything in his power to vaccinate more people faster, but stressed that not everything in the vaccination process is under his control, NU.nl reports.
PVV leader Geert Wilders and PvdA leader Lilianne Ploumen both called the vaccination policy "a mess". ChristenUnie parliamentarian Carla Dik-Faber wanted to know why it is taking so long to get people vaccinated. D66 parliamentarian Vera Bergkamp wanted to know how many vaccines are currently on the shelf and why they can't be used.
Wilders and DENK leader Farid Azarkan asked the cabinet to follow the advice of Ernst Kuipers, chairman of the national acute care network LNAZ, and other experts to use the entire stock of vaccines to give as many people as possible their first shot, even if it means waiting longer for the second dose. "That has enormous advantages, such as the rapid reduction of the pressure on healthcare and the abolition of the lockdown," Azarkan said.
De Jonge said that he understands the MPs impatience. "We are looking for all the ways to do it faster," he said. But he added that "unfortunately" the implementation of the vaccination strategy is dependent on factors outside his control, like the supply and production of various vaccines.
The delivery of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines is reliable, De Jonge said. And he will therefore reduce the stock reserved for second doses from five days to three days' worth of appointments. The Moderna deliveries are so small that no reserved stock is needed at all, he said.
But with AstraZeneca, it is a different story. "There are quite a few issues there," De Jonge said. The pharmaceutical already reduced the promised deliveries significantly multiple times, now only delivering 40 percent of the promised doses in the second quarter. Things are so uncertain there that De Jonge does not dare reduce the AstraZeneca stock to three days. "And even that is stressful," he said. In the worst case, tens of thousands of appointments will have to be canceled and rescheduled, De Jonge said.
A considerable stock of AstraZeneca vaccines has built up in the meantime, after the Netherlands paused the use of the vaccine between March 14 and 18 while possible serious side effects were investigated. During that period, the Netherlands received several deliveries. The goal is to use this extra stock as quickly as possible, De Jonge said.
The departing health Minister called the plan to give more people a first injection and wait longer for the second required dose a bad idea due to the health risks. "If you wait too long, the protection decreases and you give virus variants more space," he said.