Almost two weeks after most other EU countries, the Netherlands began its Covid-19 vaccination program on Wednesday, with nursing home staff and frontline workers in hospitals first in line for the shot.
Sanna Elkadiri, a nurse in a nursing home for people with dementia, was the first to receive a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a mass vaccination center in Veghel, 120 km (75 miles) southeast of Amsterdam.
The Dutch government has received harsh criticism for its late start of vaccinations. Prime Minister Mark Rutte told lawmakers in a debate on Tuesday that authorities had focused on preparations for the easy-to-use vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which has not yet been approved for use in the EU and not the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge did not comment on the criticism when he spoke before Elkadiri rolled up the left sleeve of his purple nurse’s uniform to get the first shot. Instead, he looked forward to a future with the virus under control.
“Finally, after a ten-month crisis, we are starting to end this crisis today,” said De Jonge. But he warned that “it will take a while before we have all the misery behind us. ”
The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, which requires extra-cold storage before use, is the only shot approved so far by the European Medicines Agency. On Wednesday, the European Medicines Agency considered approving another coronavirus vaccine, one of Moderna’s.
“I am very disappointed that we are two weeks behind other countries,” Rutte told the Dutch parliament.
The Netherlands is in the middle of a five-week tough lock-in that was introduced when the infection rate increased across the country. In recent days, infection rates have fallen lower, but the country’s public health institute said on Tuesday that locking has not yet had a clear effect on infection rates.
Nearly 12,000 people are confirmed to have died of Covid-19 in the Netherlands since the start of the pandemic, although the true number is higher because not all people who died with symptoms were tested.
Andre Rouvoet, chairman of the umbrella organization for local health authorities, welcomed the first vaccinations, which were broadcast live on Dutch television.
“It is symbolic of the hundreds of thousands of millions of vaccinations that will be administered in the Netherlands in the coming months,” he said.
The global crisis shows no signs of slowing down
Worldwide, the Covid-19 crisis has shown no signs of slowing down, with known infections approaching 86 million and more than 1.8 million deaths, even as many nations increase their vaccinations.
England began its third national shutdown on Tuesday as the alarm grew in the UK over the latest increase in cases threatening to overwhelm its national health service.
“It’s just outrageous, because I do not know if people can just go the extra mile for another six weeks with this lockdown. It’s just crazy, says Alex, a 65-year-old pensioner and one of the few people out on the streets of London on Tuesday.
A senior government minister has warned that the locks may remain in March.
Denmark and Germany also expanded and increased coronavirus measures on Tuesday, as concerns grew about the sharp rise on the continent and the European Union falling behind other advanced countries in their vaccination.
It is hoped that the block’s medical regulator will approve the Moderna vaccine when it returns on Wednesday. It approved the Pfizer-BioNTech shot last month.
Limited deliveries are a major obstacle for countries trying to speed up their launches.
The UK and Denmark have said they will wait longer than the recommended 21-28 days between jabs so they can focus on giving more people their first dose – a move that has been shared by experts.
But experts from the World Health Organization on Tuesday gave cautious support “in exceptional cases” to delay the other doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Beijing is blocking WHO’s mission
Meanwhile, an expert mission to China stumbled upon the origins of the pandemic before it even began, with the head of the WHO complaining that Beijing was blocking the team from entering the country.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “very disappointed” with the last-minute bar at the entrance, in a rare performance of Beijing by the UN agency.
Due to new variants that are believed to be more contagious, the virus situation in some countries is as bad as it has ever been.
On Tuesday, the United States broke its own record for the number of daily deaths from Covid-19 and recorded 3,936 deaths in 24 hours, according to a census conducted by Johns Hopkins University.
In California, the new American epicenter, Los Angeles paramedics have been urged to stop transporting certain patients with extremely low chances of survival to hospitals and limit oxygen consumption, as medical resources are overwhelmed.
The world’s worst-hit nation is finally counting on its vaccination campaign, which began in mid-December, to end the crisis.
But less than two percent of the population has been covered so far, with 4.8 million people receiving the first of two doses.
Israel is facing vaccinations after covering about 13.5 percent.
But it came under fire from Amnesty International on Wednesday for not providing coronavirus vaccine doses to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Melbourne stadium scare
The spikes in case events around the world have disrupted the few entertainment and sporting events that managed to resume after shutdowns earlier in the pandemic.
The English Premier League, one of the world’s most watched football competitions, said that a record 40 players and staff have tested positive during the last two test rounds, but insisted that the football season will continue.
And spectators at Australia’s Boxing Day cricket Test against India in Melbourne were warned that they must be tested and isolated after a fan at the stadium tested positive.
The Grammy Awards, scheduled for January 31 in Los Angeles, were also postponed until March due to the Covid-19 situation in California.
( Jowharwith AP and AFP)