RIVM picks new leadership team for Covid vaccine program
Jaap van Delden is leaving his position as the Covid-19 vaccination program director at public health agency RIVM, the organization announced on Monday. He will be succeeded by Marcel van Raaij who currently works as the Director of Medicines and Medical Technology at the Ministry of Health.
According to the RIVM, Van Delden was tasked with launching the national Covid-19 vaccination campaign. Now that this phase has been completed, a new program director and management team will continue.
Van Delden was recently at the receiving end of criticism for saying that the Netherlands would not move forward with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, at a time when the country's leadership was also promoting the vaccination of as many people as possible as quickly as possible. His interview on the subject was denounced as causing increased confusion and undue concern over the very rare side effect of blood clots combined with a low platelet count which the vaccine was linked to by research carried out by the European Medicines Agency.
The change of leadership comes at a time when the country's vaccination program was expected to expand significantly to boost the number of Covid-19 vaccines administered. Already last week, the GGD said it was pushing forward with plans to increase their capabilities so they can provide two million injections per week. A group of sixty hospitals have also said they can provide a combined total of up to a million more. However, figures from the Dutch government have shown that the country has not likely been able to provide a million vaccine injections in any seven-day period since the rollout began in January.
The RIVM said the Covid-19 vaccination program commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport was off to a difficult start under "high pressure and expectations" in the autumn of last year. They explained it was a "complex and challenging task, partly because of the limited and uncertain availability of vaccines and advancing scientific insight into the use of the various vaccines".
"Now that the implementation and delivery of vaccines has gained momentum, the charge of the program can be transferred to new program management," they stated.
The organization said Van Raaij will lead a newly formed team from mid-May to get up to speed before taking responsibility as the new program manager from June 15. Ronald Jansen was appointed as deputy director last week, and moving to the RIVM from his position as the director of Covid-19 vaccinations at the Ministry of Health. Mariska van Blankers was promoted internally to the position of deputy director for stakeholder management. She has been a senior manager at the RIVM's Center for Health and Society, which has helped shape policy advice based on behavioral science. A fourth manager is currently being recruited and will be appointed at a later stage, RIVM announced.
The vaccination process kicked off in the country at the beginning of January. The program received a great deal of criticism in the first months due to it being significantly slower compared to many European countries. Lagging Dutch vaccination figures were abruptly revised twice in recent weeks. The Netherlands has received international criticism over the way the RIVM tracks vaccination progress, viewed by some as questionably accurate because of incomplete databases, and for providing a more complete overview of vaccination progress once per week.
An estimated 6,346,699 Covid-19 vaccines have been given out in total in the country so far.