SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – News that the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is 95% effective is ‘very good news for the Netherlands’, the AD said on Monday.
AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot told the Sunday Times in an interview that his company, which is working on the project with Oxford University, has the ‘winning formula’ for Covid-19.
Earlier reports had indicated the vaccine maybe about 70% effective for preventing illness from coronavirus infection, but Soriot now says it is as good as the one made by Pfizer and Biontech which is already being used in some countries.
The Netherlands has gone in big on the Oxford vaccine and expects 4.5 million doses in the first quarter of the year and a further 5.2 million shots in the second quarter.
By contrast, the Dutch government has ordered 2.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and just 400,000 of the Moderna one, which is expected to be approved shortly. The European Medicines Agency is expected to complete its assessments of the AstraZeneca vaccine at the end of January.
The Netherlands has come under fire for being slow off the mark to start administering the Pfizer vaccine, which most EU countries are starting today.
The Netherlands will not start rolling out its programme until January 8, when nursing home and home nursing staff will be first in line. The Moderna vaccine is expected to go to nursing home residents, the AD reported.
The Netherlands is starting its vaccination programme later because the GGD health board’s IT system is not yet ready, the health council still has to make its formal recommendations and even the scripts for call centre staff still have to be written, Health minister Hugo de Jonge told MPs earlier this month.
In particular, it was not until November that officials decided to ditch the plan to have local doctors administer the vaccine and to turn to mass vaccination centres instead – partly for logistical reasons.
‘If we had gone for large scale vaccinations from the start, then we could have started two weeks earlier, I see that too,’ a senior health official told the Volkskrant in a reconstruction of events.
‘But we live in the Netherlands, and we are used to doing things on a small scale. Usually, it works fine. People were thinking in advance, but within the existing structures. And it is hard to sell that now that Germany and Belgium have already begun.’