SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Nijmegen’s Radboudumc teaching hospital has called on the government to speed up the rollout of coronavirus booster jabs to help drive down infections.
Chantal Bleeker, professor of infectious disease outbreak, said the first week of December was ‘too late’ to prevent a crisis in the health service with the number of coronavirus patients rising by around 35% a week.
‘There are vaccines in stock, so let’s act straight away to start earlier with boosters,’ she told De Gelderlander. Nearby countries including Germany, the UK, Belgium and France have already started giving booster vaccines to people as young as 50, but in the Netherlands the health council only advised a third dose for the over-60s a week ago.
Bleeker said studies had shown that the effectiveness of the vaccine had dropped to below 90% in over-70s in the last month, which was likely to explain why more older people were being taken to hospital with Covid-19.
‘A lot of people are still getting seriously ill relative to the age group,’ she said. ‘We don’t want that, mainly for those people, but also because of the huge pressure on healthcare.
That’s a second important reason to start giving those boosters.’ She added that the pressure on the system was being made worse by high sickness levels among healthcare staff, who have worked flat-out for 18 months to treat patients during the pandemic.
‘Usually it’s 6% to 7%, but in Covid departments and intensive care it’s gone up to 15% to 20%. We’re no longer able to do what we did during the first wave of coronavirus because we want to keep regular healthcare running too. We need to do all we can to make sure everyone continues to have access to healthcare.’