Dutch government delays Janssen Covid vaccine rollout
The caretaker Cabinet of the Netherlands said it will delay use of the Janssen Covid-19 vaccine. The vaccine is being investigated to determine if it can cause a rare side effect combining a specific type of blood clot with a low platelet count, observed in six people out of over 6.8 million who received the vaccination.
The vaccine was to first be administered to employees and patients at mental healthcare facilities, and hospital employees under 60 who work directly with patients. "As soon as more is known about how the Netherlands will deal with the Janssen vaccine, these people will also receive more clarity about their vaccination," the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday.
Hours earlier, the European Medicines Agency said that American pharmaceutical firm Johnson & Johnson would contact all governments of European Union countries to ask them not to use the Janssen Covid-19 vaccine for the time being. The investigation in the United States into the cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis with low levels of blood platelets will also be reviewed by the EMA's safety committee PRAC. "The company is in contact with national authorities, recommending to store the doses already received until the PRAC issues an expedited recommendation," the EMA said.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge will wait to decide on how the Janssen vaccine will be used until the EMA releases results of its investigation. The study could be released next week.
A day earlier, the company said it would halt deliveries of the vaccine to Europe while the investigation in the United States is carried out. The Netherlands has already taken delivery of 79,200 doses of the Janssen vaccine, which was developed in Leiden. Over 2.9 million more are scheduled for delivery by the end of June, with 11.3 million total doses of the vaccine ordered.
Any lengthy delay in delivering or administering the vaccine will make it particularly difficult for the Netherlands to accomplish its goal of at least partially vaccinating the adult population by early July. With the suspension of use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under 60, De Jonge said similar targeted advice for the Janssen vaccine would have an impact.
"Yes, then the puzzle will of course become more complicated. Because the number of alternatives for under-60s simply gets smaller," he said during a press conference on Tuesday. "So yes, that would actually affect the schedule for the coming period."
De Jonge said the Netherlands was able to absorb the AstraZeneca production delays and limitations on age groups allowed to receive the vaccine because orders have been placed with many vaccine manufacturers. "But if Janssen goes the same way, yes, then we have a problem together."
Prime Minister Mark Rutte also acknowledged that any delay to the vaccination strategy also will slow down the process of releasing the Netherlands from lockdown.
The EMA recommended approval of the Janssen vaccine on March 11. A month later, the vaccine had only arrived in limited quantities and was not widely used.