Health Council advised Cabinet to prepare booster shots in September
Update 1:55 p.m. - Article updated with more information after the third paragraph
The Health Council advised the Cabinet in September to prepare the booster shot campaign. A spokesperson said this in response to criticism from corona Minister Hugo de Jonge, who referred to the Council in a parliamentary debate on Wednesday for why the administration of booster shots is so slow. The Council maintains that in September, there was no medical-scientific reason to start with boosters.
"We already advised on 14 September: make sure you are ready as soon as we give positive advice on starting a booster injection campaign," said the spokesperson for the Health Council. That advice to give the elderly, among others, an extra shot came on 2 November. After that, the injections got off to a slow start. De Jonge promised to present a plan to speed up the campaign before next Friday.
On Wednesday, MPs asked questions about the slow start of the campaign. De Jonge said he thought the questions were justified but did not want to draw any conclusions yet. "I think it is good to put that question to the RIVM and Health Council," he said.
The Health Council looks at the latest state of medical science, explained a spokesperson. In September, it was not yet possible to determine scientifically when a booster shot would be helpful. More research became available in the weeks that followed, after which the Health Council was able to recommend that certain groups, like the elderly, be given an extra shot. "But it was expected that booster vaccines would be needed at some point because the effectiveness of vaccines generally decreases over time," said the spokesperson. "And that you should then start with additional vaccination for vulnerable groups." Whether the advice to prepare the campaign in advance is followed is up to the politicians, he said.
Compared to other European countries, the Netherlands has administered very few booster vaccinations. Other countries, which started using booster shots much earlier, were taking "a gamble" from a scientific point of view, as far as the Health Council is concerned.
A Health Council committee examines requests for advice on corona vaccines. The composition of that committee may differ slightly per advice, but it always includes specialists from different disciplines. For example, the advice on 14 September was composed by, among others, virologist Marion Koopmans, a clinical geriatrician and an associate professor of legal philosophy.
Reporting by ANP