Netherlands to limit use of Janssen Covid vaccine over side effects, effectiveness
This story was updated after the Cabinet agreed to implement the Health Council’s advice.
Younger groups of people in the Netherlands who have not yet received a Covid-19 vaccine will not be given the Janssen Vaccine, a single-shot product that currently requires no booster. Instead, they will be offered one of the approved mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said on Wednesday based on emergency advice from the Dutch Health Council.
The Council believes it will result in a one-week setback to the Dutch vaccination program. Both he and the Council emphasized that the Janssen Vaccine is also safe and effective, and that those who have received it do not need to worry. The vaccine was developed in part at a laboratory in Leiden, and was used in an injection given to Prime Minister Mark Rutte earlier this week.
The mRNA vaccines "are more effective and have fewer drawbacks" than the viral vector vaccines from both AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen, the Council stated. Both of the vector vaccines have been linked to a serious side effect involving blood clots in combination with a low platelet count. Research center Lareb has not learned of a single case of the specific side effect occurring after the Janssen Vaccine was administered in the Netherlands, though it has been found internationally.
Using all available international data, the Council said that thrombosis with a low platelet count has been diagnosed with roughly the same rate as after vaccination with AstraZeneca "with more reports in younger age groups."
The Council issued its new policy advisory because the mRNA vaccines are being produced and delivered to the Netherlands in higher quantities, and also because the current level of coronavirus infections in the country is relatively low. Those two reasons mean, "the Netherlands can afford this choice in the vaccination program," the Council stated.
The last group of people to be offered the Janssen Vaccine are those born in 1976. Some groups that cannot easily be contacted for a second vaccine shot, like homeless people, will still get the Janssen vaccine. A spokesperson for the GGD told NOS that 167 thousand people born in 1967, 1968 and 1976 are scheduled to receive the vaccine. It is not clear if they will be offered an alternative.
The Council did not change its advice about the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying it should only be used for people over 60 years of age because the scientific data has not changed. The Health Ministry this week said it would allow people who refused the AstraZeneca vaccine to instead get inoculated with one of the mRNA vaccines instead.
The Netherlands was expecting about three million Janssen Vaccine doses to be delivered during the second quarter of the year. The company faced significant production delays since April, and only a few hundred thousand doses were delivered to the Netherlands during the first two months of the quarter.