AMSTERDAM: The Dutch government announced on Saturday (Jan 2) that it will begin vaccinating thousands of frontline health care workers as soon as possible to ease pressure on hospitals hit by coronavirus-related staffing shortages.
The announcement marked an abrupt change to a policy of beginning vaccinations on Jan 8 that had drawn criticism for leaving the Netherlands lagging behind other countries that have already begun.
“The worrying situation in acute care is in part due to the illness of care workers, often corona-related,” the government said in a statement. “Acute care staff will, therefore, be part of the first group that is eligible for vaccination.”
The Netherlands is in the midst of a five-week tough lockdown imposed when infection rates were spiking across the country. In recent days, infection rates have been edging lower; on Friday, 8,215 people tested positive for COVID-19.
However, health officials have warned that the peak in new hospital and intensive care unit admissions has not yet been reached in the latest surge and capacity problems have been compounded by staff illness.
The government said that it wants to clarify by Monday the earliest possible date to begin the vaccinations. It said the first shots of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would likely be administered in 10 hospitals spread across the country.