The Netherlands has 600,000 doses of corona vaccines unused on the shelf. According to Minister Hugo de Jonge, most of this is needed as a safety stock in case deliveries fail, but experts say against it News hour that the stock should be smaller and the sting faster.
“The need is so great that I think it is unwise to keep so much safety stock,” says vaccination expert Herman van der Weide. “People who have not been vaccinated die every day. That is extremely sad. Make sure you have the option to vaccinate 24/7.”
Minister: the margin is already minimal
Vaccination sites are now open in the Netherlands from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. And even then today people entered the Utrecht Jaarbeurs, an injection site of the GGD, only drop by drop. But that is about to change, says De Jonge. The vaccination rate will increase from about 250,000 injections per week to more than 500,000 next week, the corona minister promises.
Despite the large stock, an even faster pace is not possible, according to the minister. The speed of the injection “depends entirely on the speed at which the vaccines are delivered,” he said in the press conference tonight.
According to him, the doses we keep on hand are necessary as a minimum safety stock, among other things to avoid having to cancel appointments for a second shot in the event of disappointing deliveries. “We have certainly seen at AstraZeneca that the security of supply leaves something to be desired. You have to keep a margin.”
De Jonge acknowledges that the vaccine stock does at the moment something is larger than necessary. He cites the cause of this that has since ended break on the jab with AstraZeneca. The extra supply of Astra doses will be quickly ejected from now on, he says. The safety stock of the Pfizer vaccine is also going down slightly.
But can’t the stock be reduced even further? Health economist Maarten Postma thinks so. “I think that the safety stock does not have to be that high. I would like to argue for an even greater acceleration by perhaps vaccinating 24/7 as in other countries or by also using pharmacists.”
Epidemiologist Frits Rosendaal also thinks that the injection can be done faster. “The vaccination with AstraZenaca has of course been halted for a week. I am willing to believe that. But at the moment the pace is still very slow.”
Why the ministry does not further increase the injection rate remains a question mark for the experts. According to amateur data analyst Yorick Bleijenburg, who studies corona figures, the slow injection is partly because it can take weeks before a vaccine is injected into an arm. Minister De Jonge also acknowledges this. Bleijenburg: “We see that vaccines, after they arrive in the Netherlands, are in a freezer for more than three weeks. That can of course be much shorter.”
Health economist Postma now thinks the need is so great that the ministry should abandon the safety stock completely. Like Ernst Kuipers, he wants all doses on the shelf to be used as quickly as possible. “Give as many people as possible a first shot. Go as quickly as possible towards a vaccination rate of 60 percent so that we achieve a kind of immunity with each other.” People would receive a second shot, which is necessary for maximum protection, a lot later.
Also Van der Weide, who arrived in 2009 was responsible for the swine flu vaccination program, “would do everything in its power to vaccinate as much as possible now, if necessary with one shot”. According to him, it should be “easy” to have everyone vaccinated once on 1 June.
‘No emergency yet’
Rosendaal does not think it is necessary yet to stop the safety stock. The epidemiologist sees it as an “emergency measure” for which it is still too early.
But Van der Weide is adamant: “Vaccines will now remain on the shelf. For heaven’s sake, inject them.”
He believes that the ministry has chosen the wrong vaccination strategy with the preferred groups. He argues in favor of still being vaccinated by postcode area. “Rent locations, have staff available, prepare all the tables, and you can get started on a large scale.”