What impact does the AstraZeneca decision have on vaccination strategy?

The Health Council today recommended that people under the age of 60 should no longer be vaccinated with AstraZeneca. Outgoing Minister of Health De Jonge accepts this advice.

According to De Jonge, this will not cause any major changes in the vaccination strategy. He still assumes that everyone will have received the first shot in early July and two-thirds of the population who wants to be vaccinated will be fully protected.

But AstraZeneca is a big part of the vaccination strategy for people under 60, so are those changes not too bad? Experts say the decision will have an impact, but it will ultimately turn out to be better – provided the planned vaccine deliveries go ahead.

“It is a major setback and is likely to lead to a delay in the short term,” said Gideon Kersten, professor by special appointment of vaccine development and former scientific director of vaccine research institute Intravacc. “But it can all be absorbed.”

Also Ben van der Zeijst, emeritus professor of vaccines, former director of the Dutch Vaccine Institute and former head of Vaccines at RIVM, believes that the decision will delay the Netherlands’ vaccination strategy, but that the delay will be better than expected. According to the experts, the loss of AstraZeneca can be handled by Pfizer, Moderna or Janssen. “It may be better than expected,” says Van der Zeijst.

But what do the numbers say?

According to De Jonge, everyone in the population over 18 years – who also wants to – could have a first injection before 1 July.

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Before that date, the Netherlands expects 11.1 million doses of Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen. There are currently 14.1 million people over 18 in the Netherlands, according to figures from Statistics Netherlands. The willingness to vaccinate is 76 percent, according to the RIVM. That would mean that 10.7 million people want to be vaccinated.

But of course people have already had an injection. According to the latest figures, there are at least 1.8 million. That means that 8.9 million people still need to be injected before July 1. With 11.1 million vaccines on order, this should therefore be achieved, even without AstraZeneca.


But then two more things are important: will the willingness to vaccinate remain 76 percent or will it change? And: do all deliveries arrive on time?

The second question is difficult to answer, but Dimitri Diavatopoulos, immunologist at Radboudumc, is skeptical. “We have to start from one bestcasescenario, but also look at one worstcasescenario. It bestcasescenario is that whether the deliveries arrive on time or whether enough buffer has been built up to absorb delayed deliveries. In that scenario we will indeed make it. “

But in it worstcasescenario is that still the question, says Diavatopoulos. “If you look at the recent past of deliveries, I think we can expect quite a few setbacks.”

Judith Honig is one of the people who would get AstraZeneca and has been canceled. She is single mother of daughter Rosa. Because she has diabetes and is therefore more at risk from covid-19, she was due to receive the vaccine tomorrow. But she has to wait longer now, she says in this video:

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