Netherlands reevaluating role of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

THE HAGUE - Caretaker Health Minister Hugo De Jonge has asked the Dutch Health Council to reevaluate its advice to only use the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine with people over the age of 60. As of right now, the Netherlands is administering the AstraZeneca jab only to people between the age of 60 and 64.

The European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) most recent statement on the vaccine is that the benefits of the shot for all age groups outweigh the risks of rare side effects. The EMA previously concluded that a combination of blood clots (thrombosis) and a low number of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) can be considered a very rare side effect of the vaccine but pointed out that it occurred in fewer than 1 in 100,000 people. The side effect mostly affects women younger than 60 years.

After receiving advice from the Health Council which was far stricter than the EMA, the Dutch Cabinet announced on April 8 it would no longer use the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 for people under the age of 60 out of concern that it was tied to the cases of severe blood clotting. A total of 8 such cases were reported nationwide with the age of patients ranging from 23 to 65.

Additionally, De Jonge also asked the council to reconsider whether the two shots of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine should be administered at a shorter time apart. The current 12-week gap between doses is a result of the Dutch policy to use the maximum amount of time recommended by the EMA to at least partially protect as many people as possible while remaining within guidelines which say the second shot must be given within a 4 to 12 week window.

On Monday, a number of general physicians criticized RIVM Covid-19 vaccination program director Jaap van Delden who said that millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines destined for the Netherlands will most likely not be needed with plenty of other alternatives available. GPs argued that the AstraZeneca jabs still remained essential in the ongoing vaccination process.

Some 5,207,495 Covid-19 vaccines have been given out in the Netherlands so far according to the RIVM's latest model. On Monday, the Covid-19 vaccination estimate for the last calendar week was 14 percent below RIVM projections.

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