Roel Coutinho, former CEO of RIVM, describes the fact that the booster injection campaign in the Netherlands is hardly making headway compared to other European countries. It appears that the Ministry of Health and the RIVM have not learned from previous vaccination rounds, according to predecessor Jaap van Diesel.
Because even early in the campaign, at the beginning of this year, Coutinho criticized the slowness with which the twitching started. “Then I actually said: Make the defense accountable for that.” According to Coutinho, there is a lot more knowledge about leading large logistics operations than public health. When he was director of infectious diseases at RIVM, the swine flu vaccination campaign was launched faster in 2009 than in other countries.
Coutinho admits that making defense responsible is no longer an option. But he still does not understand why the responsible authorities do not seem to learn how to deal with the sting. Last week, the Cabinet announced a “undermining attack”. Students and military personnel should assist in acceleration. Coutinho: “Why wasn’t that thought of so much earlier?”
Late change of situation
In September, the Board of Health still believed that booster injections for the elderly were not yet necessary, but in November it came up with a revised opinion: Give elderly and nursing home residents an extra chance. “I find it strange that your scientific framework has changed in six weeks,” Coutinho said. In September, he says, international scientific publications have already shown that vaccine protection is deteriorating. This late change of situation did not make it easier for the ministry.”
Because waiting for advice from the health board is critical, the emeritus professor of epidemiology believes. “You give vaccinations to people who are basically healthy. So, in particular, you have to think very carefully and on a scientific basis whether there are risks in giving boosters. Politicians can’t do that.” Coutinho calls the only good “excuse” for the slow buildup campaign that the advice took so long in this case.
Finally, the former head of RIVM also describes it with concern that part of the population has not been vaccinated at all. “What I am missing in the Netherlands is an inspiring campaign in this field. It is led by a medically educated person, who can speak very well about vaccinations and is ready to join the stage. There are still unreached groups, or unreached ones who do not want to. There are still a lot of Profits to be earned.