Healthcare inspectorate releases AstraZeneca advice at odds with gov’t; Quickly taken offline
The Healthcare Inspectorate (IGJ) published an advisory statement on its website on Tuesday which said that doctors must be able to make a professional assessment when patients younger than 60 request to be given the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for urgent medical reasons. That conflicted with the government’s decision to completely stop using the jab for under-60s, a decision which Health Minister Hugo de Jonge continued to defend during a Tuesday night press conference. The document was taken offline just 10 minutes after it was published, according to the Volkskrant.
The advice that was withdrawn on Tuesday afternoon, stated that if patients "wanted to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca for very serious medical or social reasons, the doctor must be able to comply with this", with the supplies that are still available, "after a broad assessment and after the doctor informed the patient," the newspaper reported. In that situation, neither patient nor doctor have any objection to administering the AstraZeneca vaccine, with the patient being made well aware of the very low risk of a serious side effect, it was concluded in the publication.
De Jonge confirmed on April 8 that the Netherlands would no longer use the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 for people under the age of 60 out of concern that it was tied to several cases of severe blood clotting with a low platelet count. Eight of those side effect reports, out of dozens in Europe, surfaced in the Netherlands after about 400 thousand injections of the vaccine were given. The European Medicines Agency has advised that the vaccine be used for people of all ages as the benefits of preventing Covid-19 far outweigh the slim risk of blood clots, but the Dutch Health Council disagreed.
A representative for the IGJ told the newspaper that the document was taken offline because a number of involved parties did not get a chance to read the advice before its publication. One of them demanded immediate withdrawal because the advice could be 'interpreted too broadly’.
The Healthcare Inspectorate didn’t indicate whether it was approached by the Ministry of Health to remove the advice.
The organization representative said the incident was simply a misunderstanding. "We published something that we did not want to publish. We found out that the message raised a suggestion that we did not want to create", he explained.
The spokesperson for Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said on Tuesday that the Inspectorate had withdrawn the message on its own because of issues within the document.
Though independent, the IGJ falls under the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS). The Healthcare Inspectorate serves to provide advice and policy briefs about the field of medical care.