First of all, I want to wish you a happy new year. Let’s look forward to a better and healthier new year, a year of possibilities rather than restrictions.
Now, on to the update about the current Covid-situation in the Netherlands. Although the Dutch headlines today are full of positive vaccination news, I briefly want to start of with something else first.
As some of the students amongst you have recently returned to the Netherlands after the Christmas break (or will return soon now), please do keep in mind the ten days of self-isolation requirement! I’ve experienced myself how annoying and difficult this might be, but strongly urge you to get through this annoying week-and-a-half. As we are all in lockdown and schools are closed, just stay at home.
So, the main headlines in the Dutch news today:
This morning, the first people in the Netherlands have been vaccinated in the Brabant region! It’s an exciting start, but only a beginning. With capacity ramping up, around 66.000 staff of elderly homes will be able to get vaccinated weekly as of January 18th. This happens in a total of 25 locations throughout the entire country. Additionally, hospital vaccinations for crucial staff are also taking off today.
Here is what can be expected of vaccinations from now on (roughly and subject to change and approval and availability of the vaccine):
As of January, healthcare workers in elderly homes, and crucial health staff/hospital staff will get vaccinated. Some elderly and disabled living in institutions will also get vaccinated in January.
As of February, the main focus will be on the elderly and disabled living in institutions. Additionally, all people with an underlying serious health condition will be able to get vaccinated.
As of March, the elderly who live at home will be able to get vaccinated.
As of April, other hospital staff will get their vaccines.
As of May, the vaccine will be available broadly to everyone living in the Netherlands.
(overview based on governmental roadmap ‘vaccination strategy‘ in Dutch (document direct download))
As May comes closer by, more information will become available. If you fall into one of the categories that get vaccinated earlier, you will most likely be informed by either your employer or GP.
The expectation is to have vaccinations finished sometime between July and October this year. A lot is also depending on the approval, deliveries, and availability of the different vaccines however. It’s a marathon and we’ve only just started.
At this point, close to 75% of the Netherlands feels positive about the vaccines and is willing to get vaccinated. Amongst healthcare workers, this rate is even higher at around 80%.
Some countries that have started vaccinations earlier on have started reporting how many people have received a vaccine by now. An overview of that can be found at ourworldindata.org (note that it only reports doses, not people vaccinated as every person likely requires two shots.) Averaged out in all countries European but the UK and Iceland, the vaccination rate is still rather low, but the process has started!
The EMA just (06-01, 13.18h) approved the Moderna vaccine. After approval from the European Commission (EC), a formality that will happen in the following days, this vaccine will mostly be used to vaccinate some 223.000 people living in elderly homes and other long-term healthcare institutions. As this vaccine does not have to be stored at -70°C, it can be relatively easily used ‘on location’ rather than in vaccination centers. As the ordered quantities for this vaccine are relatively low, this does not mean a major shift in the aforementioned vaccination roadmap.
Lastly on vaccinations: despite firm criticism in parliament about the process so far yesterday, there is broad support for the plans forward from now on. Both Mark Rutte and Hugo de Jonge, respectively Prime Minister and minister of healthcare have admitted their mistakes, and admitted they have to take a more flexible stand that better reflects the reality.
That’s it for vaccines, here are some more updates, unfortunately somewhat less positive:
It is not unlikely that the lockdown in the Netherlands will continue for a longer time. As the infection rate R has reportedly not yet dropped below 1, the risk of a new wave of infections is still very real. The government will make a decision about this at the end of this week, and a press conference will be held next Tuesday.
Although fewer test results come back positive now, the lockdown hasn’t produced a ‘significant effect’ in infection rates. Although there is a slight decrease of people getting tested and positive tests, this could very well be due to the Christmas break rather than a substantial positive change, unfortunately. It is expected that last week, some 172.000 people in the Netherlands were Covid-contagious.
So, when will infection rates really decrease and when can we slowly return to normalcy? It is expected that once 40% of the country has been vaccinated, the effects of vaccination will be visible in nation-wide infection rates, but it will take quite some time until we make it there. As soon as the weakest in our society are protected however, that should make a significant difference in what is possible for everybody else. I can unfortunately not give a specific date for that, so we will have to wait and see.
That is all for now.
I want to kindly ask you to stay at home as much as possible and to not have more than two guests over, to wear your facemask, to keep washing your hands, and to stick to that 1,5m distance to others. Behave responsibly, and stay strong for a while longer. Stay strong and stay safe.
If any questions, please feel free to get in touch with me!
(PS. if you feel like more people could benefit from these updates, please refer them to this website, or let them join one of the WhatsApp news groups)