Dutch could delay first Covid vaccine shots for many; De Jonge to discuss at press conference
Many people in the Netherlands waiting for their first Covid-19 vaccine may have to wait longer due to ongoing issues with deliveries of the Janssen vaccine, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said on Friday. De Jonge said he will address the situation in further detail at a press conference with Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday night. The press conference was widely expected to focus on the third step of lockdown easing in the Netherlands predicted to start on June 5.
De Jonge has repeatedly said for months that every adult resident in the country will get access to at least a first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine by the beginning of July. However, consistent problems with AstraZeneca vaccine deliveries created the first potential wrinkle in his plan, with the Janssen vaccine now adding a further complication.
"I assume that this will have an implication for when everyone can be given the first shot," he said Friday morning before the Council of Ministers meeting. Janssen vaccine deliveries have "gotten very far away from what it had initially said."
Three million Janssen vaccine doses were expected to be delivered to the Netherlands between April 1 and June 30. Only about 312 thousand in total have arrived. The RIVM predicted it will receive over 300 thousand more doses by June 14, and possibly a half-million more the last two weeks of June. The vaccination program director at the RIVM, Jaap van Delden, said two weeks ago in a parliament committee meeting that deliveries were very sketchy where sometimes they could be regular, and other times a backlog could be filled weeks later. "That is quite an annoying uncertainty, but we have to deal with that," he said.
A large batch of 30 million doses of the vaccine for the European market is on hold, waiting for approval for distribution from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The organization was reviewing the activities at a plant which had a contamination issue between both the Janssen and AstraZeneca vaccines. Both vaccines were being produced at the location.
The consequences for the Netherlands will be revealed at the press conference.
Rutte and De Jonge will unveil exact details of the next lockdown reopening stage during the media event. De Jonge hinted on Wednesday was very likely going to press forward with the third stage of coronavirus lockdown easing on June 5. He explained that the latest data about coronavirus infections, Covid-19 hospitalizations, and vaccinations was encouraging, possibly allowing for relaxation to take place before originally planned June 9.
The hospitality sector will likely see more freedom in terms of hosting people inside cafes and restaurants, and possibly bars. Opening hours and the maximum number of visitors allowed could also be modified. Justice and Security Minister Ferd Grapperhaus previously advocated for bars, cafés, and restaurants to be able to reopen fully at the same time regardless if their primary sales come from alcohol or food.
According to the original plan, the third step of the lockdown easing also suggested the reopening of cultural venues such as museums, theatres, and cinemas. Additionally, a limit in the number of visitors for private households is supposed to increase from two to four. More possibilities for indoor sports activities and outdoor sports participation could also be granted.
The final decision was expected to be made during the ministers' meeting on Friday. The Netherlands took its first two steps towards the full reopening of the society on April 28 and May 19.