All adults offered a Covid booster shot by end January
Every person over 18 will be offered a booster shot by the second half of January at the latest. The period between the last vaccination or infection and the booster shot is also shortened from six months to three months, said Health Minister Hugo de Jonge. The reason for the acceleration is the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. He also said he was most worried about the 11 percent of the population eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine, but who have not yet gotten a jab.
Everyone over 60 can book their Covid booster shots online as of Tuesday, and nearly all of them will receive a paper invitation for their jab by the end of the year. De Jonge said he wants everyone over 45 to be invited to make an appointment by Christmas. All adults should be able to make their appointments by mid-January.
”Millions of shots, given by tens of thousands of people. It is a huge operation,” De Jonge said during a press conference with Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The military, the Red Cross, hospitals, and medical students will help with the process, he stated. “We need the boosters to fight the Omicron variant. A booster for your own health and for society."
The Netherlands was among the last countries in Europe to start its booster campaign. The European Medicines Agency, based in Amsterdam, gave its approval to the extra jab from Pfizer/BioNTech on October 4, and to an extra Moderna jab later in October. Originally, the Netherlands was going to start administering boosters on December 6, but that was brought forward to mid-November amid a sudden escalation in the number of coronavirus infections. The country has been playing catch-up ever since.
De Jonge said that the Cabinet expects the Omicron variant to cause a new wave of coronavirus infections. He referred to the situation in other countries, where the variant is spreading very quickly, with infections caused by the variant doubling every day. While much is still uncertain about the new variant, it is known that it spreads very rapidly and that built-up immunity offers less protection against it, De Jonge said.
An additional injection “again increases the protection to at least 75 percent against infection,” De Jonge stated. He also said it should not be viewed as a luxury, but as a necessity to prevent becoming infected. “That is why the booster campaign is being sped up now. The need to speed it up right now is different than before.”
He added that "we will have to live with" the coronavirus. And it is still impossible to say "how long we have to go from booster to booster," he stated.
"Unfortunately, we don't have an answer to that."