Kuipers: "Incomprehensible" to suspend AstraZeneca Covid vaccine for under-60s
The decision to stop inoculating most people under 60 against Covid-19 with the AstraZeneca vaccine is "incomprehensible", said Ernst Kuipers, the head of the Dutch acute care providers network. "I have not yet spoken to a colleague in the hospital world who thinks otherwise."
The decision was ultimately made by Health Minister Hugo de Jonge, after the European Medicines Agency said blood clots with low platelet counts was likely a very rare side effect of that specific vaccine affecting fewer than .001 percent of those who receive the shot. One woman in the Netherlands died as a result of a pulmonary embolism, and seven others were seriously affected by blood clots with low platelet counts within three weeks of receiving their first shot of the vaccine.
"I don't envy him, because these are difficult choices. But at least I think it would be good to make it possible for people under 60 to receive AstraZeneca on a voluntary basis," Kuipers said during his weekly press briefing.
The suspension continued to cause confusion regarding the country's vaccination program on Monday. The association representing general practitioners in the Netherlands, LHV, has called upon the Ministry of Health and the public health agency RIVM to provide more clarity regarding which vaccine type is suitable for people with existing conditions under the age of 60 after the use of AstraZeneca vaccine was halted.
Simultaneously, the Association has warned that more and more people over the age of 60 are not showing up for their AstraZeneca appointments, ANP reported. After the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine was suspended last week for everyone under the age of 60, it is no longer clear how the vaccine strategy will move forward regarding the people suffering from obesity, certain neurological disorders, or Down's syndrome.
“A solution must be found for these people in the very short term. We strongly urge the Ministry of Health and RIVM to do so, the LHV representative said.
At the same, the LHV representative warned that people above the age of 60 are now often not showing up for their vaccine appointments, which leads to increased frustration among GPs who also have to deal with more people approaching them with questions and doubts regarding the use of the vaccine.
"We receive signals from GPs who say that the turnout is disappointing. They have to set up everything next to their busy practice and then they see how, probably partly because of the bans, some people decide to not show up." LHV representative stated.
In very rare cases, the first injection can cause serious side effects: a combination of thrombosis and a shortage of blood platelets. This clinical picture occurred after less than 1 in 150,000 injections. In a few cases, the outcome was fatal, out of a total of tens of millions of doses administered in total.
Minister of Health Hugo de Jonge is expected to provide more information on Monday or Tuesday, after working on updating the vaccination strategy over the last weekend.