Covid Netherlands: Most of 11m doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to go unused as use restricted

Most of the 11 million AstraZeneca vaccines due to reach the Netherlands in the coming weeks will go unused, a top health official has revealed.

Jaap van Deldon, who heads the vaccination department at Holland’s public health institute, admitted that millions of the ordered Covid-19 doses will not be needed after the government restricted its use on under-60s due to concerns about incredibly rare blood clots.   

It comes as the Netherlands battles soaring cases of coronavirus with new infections topping 8,000 in recent days. Intensive care doctors in the Noord-Brabant province have warned that wards at some hospitals are at breaking point. 

The Netherlands, alongside a number of EU countries, has crippled its own vaccine programme with a series of stops and starts in its roll-out. 

The country introduced age restrictions on its use amid a ‘possible link’ between the jab and very rare blood clots – even though the European Medicines Agency saying it is ‘firmly convinced’ the benefits of the jab outweigh the risks. 

First the vaccine was halted in Holland, then permitted, and then banned for those under the age of 60 due to the blood clot fears resulting in many losing confidence in the jab.

While the Netherlands has ordered 11 million doses of the jab, which is only being given to people between the ages of 60 and 64, only 1.5 million doses have been handed out so far to the population of around 17 million. 

In the Netherlands, 8,013 Covid-19 cases were reported on Sunday while 11 people died

In the Netherlands, 8,013 Covid-19 cases were reported on Sunday while 11 people died

In the Netherlands, 8,013 Covid-19 cases were reported on Sunday while 11 people died

The Netherlands, alongside a number of EU countries, has crippled its own vaccine programme with a series of stops and starts in its roll-out

The Netherlands, alongside a number of EU countries, has crippled its own vaccine programme with a series of stops and starts in its roll-out

The Netherlands, alongside a number of EU countries, has crippled its own vaccine programme with a series of stops and starts in its roll-out 

Mr Van Deldon has been criticised by doctors after telling the AD newspaper that millions of doses, due to be delivered next month, will go unused in favour of other vaccines.  

He told the newspaper: ‘But at some point it is of course true that we are done with AstraZeneca. 

‘That moment will come a bit faster than expected, because Pfizer has started to deliver more. 

‘We estimate that we will largely no longer need the AstraZeneca deliveries that we will receive from the second half of May.’

When asked what will happen to the millions of wasted doses of the vaccine, Mr Van Deldon said: ‘The idea has always been: we buy more vaccines than we need, because vaccines could fail. 

‘If Europe is left with vaccines, they could be distributed to less wealthy countries. And maybe you could save some for later.’ 

The National General Practitioners Association LHV in the Netherlands accused Mr Van Deldon of confusing the vaccine issue further and said it is important for people to take the AstraZeneca vaccine.

‘The policy changes surrounding this vaccine are making it more difficult for doctors to ensure high turnout [for the vaccination],’ the organisation told the Dutch News. ‘This is absolutely not helping.

Jaap van Deldon admitted that millions of the ordered Covid-19 doses will not be needed after the government restricted its use on under-60s due to concerns about incredibly rare blood clots

Jaap van Deldon admitted that millions of the ordered Covid-19 doses will not be needed after the government restricted its use on under-60s due to concerns about incredibly rare blood clots

Jaap van Deldon admitted that millions of the ordered Covid-19 doses will not be needed after the government restricted its use on under-60s due to concerns about incredibly rare blood clots

A healthcare worker is vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Amsterdam on April 24

A healthcare worker is vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Amsterdam on April 24

A healthcare worker is vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Amsterdam on April 24

‘As far as we are concerned it is clear: if the choice is AstraZeneca now or possibly another vaccine later, then the choice should absolutely be for AstraZeneca now.’

While the Netherlands has ordered 11 million doses of the jab, which is only being given to people between the ages of 60 and 64, only 1.5 million doses have been handed out so far to the population of around 17 million.

The European Medicines Agency on Friday said again that the use of the Oxford jab ‘outweighs its risks in adults of all age groups’. 

In the Netherlands, 8,013 Covid-19 cases were reported while 11 deaths were reported. 

Intensive care doctors in the Noord-Brabant province have told the health ministry they have now reached their limits on wards in some hospitals, according to Dutch News.

In a joint letter, they wrote: ‘The physical and emotional strain on our teams (who, according to IC doctors, are also increasingly dealing with young patients) inevitably takes a toll.

‘Team members have indicated that they will not be able to sustain this pace much longer and are considering stopping. The staff shortage will increase further, which will endanger the quality of our IC care in the (near) future.

The development comes as the EU is suing AstraZeneca over its ‘complete failure’ to meet delivery deadlines and contractual agreements for its vaccine. 

Ursula von der Leyen's Commission is now mounting plans to sue AstraZeneca after not receiving doses outlined in its contracts. It comes after European leaders rashly claimed that the vaccine wasn't safe, which has crippled the woeful pace of their programmes to immunise

Ursula von der Leyen's Commission is now mounting plans to sue AstraZeneca after not receiving doses outlined in its contracts. It comes after European leaders rashly claimed that the vaccine wasn't safe, which has crippled the woeful pace of their programmes to immunise

Ursula von der Leyen’s Commission is now mounting plans to sue AstraZeneca after not receiving doses outlined in its contracts. It comes after European leaders rashly claimed that the vaccine wasn’t safe, which has crippled the woeful pace of their programmes to immunise 

Brussels also bitterly decided not to take up the option to buy 100 million more of the Anglo-Swedish firm’s vaccine. 

The EU is seeking to save face in the courts after crippling its own vaccine roll-out by launching a war against Britain – and the rest of the world – first, by suggesting that the vaccines were ineffective, and then embargoing exports.

Only a third of Germans now consider the AstraZeneca vaccine to be safe, while just 23 per cent of the French would take it. 

In Italy and Spain, most people had previously believed the jab was safe, with 54 per cent and 59 per cent backing it respectively.

But since the row over safety, those figures have fallen to 36 per cent of Italians and 38 per cent of Spaniards, YouGov figures show.

As a result, just 19 per cent of EU citizens have received their first dose of a jab, while 49 per cent of the British population has had a vaccine. 

The EU launched a vaccine war in January when it was notified by AstraZeneca to expect a shortfall in doses as Britain raced ahead with inoculations.  

Leaders like Emmanuel Macron lashed out at the UK, saying that the jab developed by Oxford University was only ‘quasi-effective’ – a claim later shown to be baseless scaremongering by the EU’s own medicines regulator.

The bloc meanwhile lurched to a policy of embargoing exports, condemned as ‘stupid’ even by Jean Claude Juncker, to force AstraZeneca into delivering supplies. 

A woman receives a shot of the Janssen vaccine, during a COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Pamplona, northern Spain, Thursday

A woman receives a shot of the Janssen vaccine, during a COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Pamplona, northern Spain, Thursday

A woman receives a shot of the Janssen vaccine, during a COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Pamplona, northern Spain, Thursday

By the end of the first quarter, AstraZeneca had supplied 30 million doses to the Bloc, instead of the 100 million it had pledged to deliver in its contract.

The EU blamed the manufacturer, but the reason why Britain and the United States have had such successful vaccine roll-outs compared to the EU is because they were able to actually secure the doses by cutting red tape.

Brussels, on the other hand, signed contracts with AstraZeneca much later due to its vast bureaucratic red tape.

They were also more reliant on receiving doses from Pfizer and Moderna, which were hit with early production woes.

The Commission has ordered 300 million doses from AstraZeneca as part of a contract that included 400 million doses, of which 100 million was optional.  

However, in recent weeks the EU has stepped up the pace of its roll-out. 

It has fully vaccinated 7 per cent of the population, compared with 15 per cent of the UK.

Last week, the Netherlands averaged 0.77 vaccines per 100 people per day, the highest of any country in Europe.

France, Germany and Hungary are also picking up the pace.

Whether they will be able to fully repair the damage done by raising fears over blood clots remains to be seen. Countries like Italy and France have very high levels of anti-vax sentiment compared to in the UK.

Before the vaccine safety row, 43 per cent of French people considered the vaccine to be unsafe, now that proportion has risen to 61 per cent. 

In January, the European Medicines Regulator (EMA) approved the AstraZeneca jab for all age groups, but a number of EU countries, including France and Germany, refused to recommend it to people over 65. 

At the beginning of March, France and Germany were forced into humiliating U-turns and approved jab for 65 to 74-year-olds.

Then just weeks later, they were among 13 countries which suspended use of the vaccine after sporadic reports of blood clots.

Most countries then restarted use of the vaccines after the EMA came out and said that the incidence of blood clots was actually lower among those who had received a jab than it was in the general population. 

On April 7, the regulator conceded there was a ‘possible link’ between AstraZeneca and blood clots, but said neither age group nor gender were a defining risk factor.

But the damage was done. Countries including the Netherlands, France and Germany have limited use of the jab to those older than 55 or 60, while Denmark has entirely suspended its use.

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