Dutch begin Covid-19 vaccinations, last EU nation to do so

07 January 2021 | International

ASSOCIATED PRESS



THE HAGUE

Nearly two weeks after most other European Union (EU) nations, the Netherlands yesterday began its Covid-19 vaccination programme, with nursing home staff and frontline workers in hospitals first in line for the shot.

Sanna Elkadiri, a nurse at a nursing home for people with dementia, was the first to receive a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a mass vaccination centre in Veghel, 120km southeast of the capital, Amsterdam.

The Dutch government has come under fierce criticism for its late start to vaccinations.

Prime minister Mark Rutte told lawmakers in a debate on Tuesday that authorities had focused preparations on the easy-to-handle vaccine made by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which has not yet been cleared for use in the EU, and not the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage before it is used, is the only shot that has been approved so far by the EU's medicines agency.

Another vaccine

Yesterday, the European Medicines Agency was considering approving another coronavirus vaccine, one made by Moderna.

β€œI'm very disappointed that we are two weeks behind other countries,” Rutte said in the Dutch parliament.

The Netherlands is in the midst of a five-week tough lockdown imposed when infection rates were spiking across the country. In recent days, infection rates have been edging lower, but on Tuesday, the country's public health institute said the lockdown has not yet produced a clear effect on infection rates.

Nearly 12 000 people are confirmed to have died of Covid-19 in the Netherlands since the pandemic started, though the true number is higher because not all people who died were tested.

Andre Rouvoet, chairman of the umbrella organisation of local health authorities, welcomed the first vaccinations, which was aired live on Dutch television.

β€œIt is symbolic of the hundreds of thousands - millions - of vaccinations that will be administered in the Netherlands in coming months,” he said.