The Netherlands is at the rear of Europe when it comes to booster shots. To change that, outgoing minister Hugo de Jonge yesterday promised a real booster offensive, in which the number of jabs taken will be increased to 700,000 per week in the coming weeks. There should be a detailed plan for that tomorrow.
The custom is to place a booster vaccine in everyone within six months after the second shot. Six months ago, 2.8 million people in the Netherlands had already received two injections. Actually, they should already have their booster, but according to European figures we are only now at 200,000 injections.
At our southern neighbors they started earlier and got started more quickly with the booster vaccine. In September tens of thousands of injections were administered per week in Belgium and in October this quickly rose to more than 100,000 per week. Meanwhile, 18 percent of fully vaccinated Belgians have also received a booster shot. How can they be so ahead of us?
According to the Belgian virologist Marc van Ranst, one of the secrets of the vaccination campaign in Belgium is the large number of volunteers. “Everyone knows someone who helps as a volunteer, that gives a lot of goodwill. All those volunteers are ambassadors of the vaccination program.”
El van Doesburg, the originally Dutch alderman of Antwerp, also praises the volunteers. She is responsible for the vaccination campaign in Antwerp. “The people who do the shots here are all people with medical backgrounds, such as vets, medical students and pharmacists,” she says.
“And they’ve all officially reported.
Antwerp has set up several large locations to place booster spikes at high speed. “In Kinepolis, the largest cinema complex in the city, we have set up a vaccination village, where we vaccinate 8,000 people every day. And another 1500 vaccines are being prepared (prepared, ed.) for residents of residential care centers.”
The Belgian government sets different intervals for the vaccines, which are related to the decreasing effect per vaccine. Van Janssen’s effect diminishes quickly. Those who received that vaccine should have received a booster shot after two months. This is four months for those vaccinated with AstraZeneca, and six months for Pfizer and Moderna. “For example, if you received AstraZeneca, you receive your invitation to get your booster shot here four months later. That is the treatment we continue, combined with age,” says Van Doesburg.
Advantage of simplicity
Van Ranst says that this interval is largely met. “But everything could be better. If you ask expert virologists, the shots should already have been in all arms.”
The Netherlands does not take into account the different vaccines, and the effect for everyone is six months. “That has the advantage of simplicity, then everyone is on the same schedule,” says Van Ranst. “But if you do have the information and can easily get it from a system, then you can perform it efficiently. If I had received the Janssen vaccine, I would rather get that shot a little faster than six months.”
The booster campaign did not immediately start en masse in Belgium, says Van Ranst. “In the first institutions, the large locations that had previously been vaccinated, such as, were full. That was a problem. But now they are free again, so we can use them again.”