Former RIVM boss Coutinho: slow booster campaign is ‘incomprehensible…

ANP Productions | Source: ANP


Former RIVM CEO Roel Coutinho calls the fact that the booster injection campaign in the Netherlands is barely making progress in comparison with other European countries. The Ministry of Health and RIVM seem not to have learned from the previous rounds of vaccinations, according to Jaap van Dissel’s predecessor.

Because even earlier in the campaign, at the beginning of this year, Coutinho criticized the slowness with which the pricking started. “Then I said: make the Defense responsible for it.” There is much more knowledge there about leading large logistics operations than Public Health, according to Coutinho. When he was director of infectious diseases at RIVM, the vaccination campaign against swine flu was rolled out faster in 2009 than in other countries.

Making defense responsible is no longer an option, Coutinho acknowledges. But he still doesn’t understand why the responsible authorities don’t seem to learn how to deal with stinging. The cabinet announced a ‘booster offensive’ last week. Students and military personnel must help to accelerate. Coutinho: “Why hasn’t that been thought of much earlier?”

Late change of position

In September, the Health Council still believed that booster shots for the elderly were not yet necessary, but came up with a revised opinion in November: do give the elderly and residents of care institutions an extra shot. “I find it strange that your scientific framework changes in six weeks,” said Coutinho. In September, according to him, international scientific publications already showed that the protection of the vaccines was declining. “That late change of position has not made it any easier for the ministry.”

Because waiting for advice from the Health Council is crucial, believes the emeritus professor of epidemiology. “You give vaccinations to people who are in principle healthy. So in particular you have to consider very carefully and on a scientific basis whether there are risks in giving boosters. Politicians cannot do that.” Coutinho calls the only good “excuse” for the slow booster jab campaign that the advice took a long time in this case.

Finally, the former RIVM boss also calls it worrying that part of the population is still not vaccinated at all. “What I miss in the Netherlands is an inspiring campaign in that area. Led by a medically educated person, who can talk well about vaccinations and is willing to go on stage. There are still groups that are not being reached, or that do not do not want to. There is still a lot of profit to be made.”



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