Netherlands questioned over sudden 19% surge in Covid vaccine estimates
The significant revision to Covid-19 vaccination estimates this week by the RIVM was viewed as suspicious by members of Parliament this week. The sluggish vaccine figures suddenly jumped by 19 percent on Tuesday within an hour of a press conference where Health Minister Hugo de Jonge claimed the country had administered a total of 3.9 million vaccinations.
During the press conference, NL Times messaged a spokesperson for the RIVM to get clarity. That call went unanswered, but 30 minutes later hundreds of thousands of injections were added to the country’s coronavirus dashboard, taking the total from below 3.2 million to over 3.9 million. A day later, the four-million mark was surpassed.
Parliamentarian Fleur Agema of the far-right PVV accused the RIVM of presenting a rosier picture than what might be true. "It fits in perfectly with the minister's positive picture,” she told newspaper AD.
“At the end of December we already hammered on the issue of good record-keeping. Figures must reflect reality, it must not be created from thin air. So if almost a million injections are added at one time, I understand the concerns about that,” said Maarten Hijink, a Socialist Party MP.
The inability for the RIVM to present clear, raw data about the Covid-19 vaccination program was beyond belief to Edouard Mathieu. He runs the data analysis website Our World In Data, funded by Oxford University and the Global Change Data Lab. "It is difficult to understand that now that the vaccinations have been going on for so long, there is still such a confusing difference between the registered and estimated number of injections," he said to the newspaper.
"Moreover, the official dashboard does not distinguish between first and second injections which is only done weekly by the RIVM,” he continued. “That's why we only use the weekly RIVM reports. It is a forced and sub-optimal compromise.”
The weekly reports released every Tuesday by the RIVM are meant to be more precise. In its latest release, which happened after a five hour delay and reflected statements De Jonge made during his press conference, the RIVM itself noted that is figures were based on an estimate model and not on raw figures.
Even months of preparation for the day vaccines would be available, and now over three months into the vaccine campaign, the information provided by the RIVM is “very bad,” Mathieu said.
The RIVM revision was the second major correction since injections began on January 6. The anemic Dutch vaccination figures were revised up by 19%, which the agency initially said was because their estimate that five percent of vaccine doses were wasted was erroneous. They said a more accurate figure was one percent, which they then applied retroactively. Their decision was made as it received more information and data from various sources, including local health boards, hospitals, and general physicians, each using a range of different IT systems to keep track of the data, AD reported.
Further complicating matters are privacy issues since people can at any time choose to opt out of having the record of their vaccination shared with the RIVM. The agency did not say why it was not possible to collect and collate anonymous data with no link to a particular vaccine recipient.
“There are so many different systems used, and we don't always get the information on time. Then it is also the case that people who receive their vaccination can indicate that they do not want their information to end up in our system. We estimate that about ten percent of people choose this,” a spokesperson for the RIVM said to AD.
The revised estimate pushed the Netherlands into sixth place among the 30 countries of the European Economic Area when looking at people who received one vaccine dose. It was still near the bottom for the percentage of adults who received a second dose.
Total estimated jabs given stood at 4,020,836 on Wednesday, marking a single day increase of 120,372. This was likely the most vaccine injections given in one day since the vaccination program began, if the estimate is accurate.