Health Minister Hugo de Jonge has announced that “if all goes well” vaccinations in the Netherlands will begin on January 4.
The minister called it “a phase of hope and new perspective,” but whether the vaccines will indeed be ready for distribution on January 4 depends on the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and how quickly they are able to asses the safety of the vaccines.
De Jonge made it clear in a statement that the Dutch government will be prioritizing safety over speed, saying, “a word of caution: this really is the most favourable scenario. EMA and the European Commission are the first to act. And safety comes before speed.”
Both the BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have completed all testing procedures successfully and have officially applied for marketing authorization. The EMA expects to reach a conclusion on the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine by December 29.
Should the EMA give it the green light, the European Commission will then decide, potentially before the new year, whether to allow distribution of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine in the European market.
A similar procedure will follow with the Moderna vaccine, but the EMA only expects to have a decision on it around mid-January.
Expected vaccination capacity
Almost one million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine will arrive in the Netherlands this month, meaning that 450,000 people could potentially be vaccinated as soon as the go-ahead is given. A further 1.6 million doses will be delivered to the Netherlands in the first quarter of 2021.
Additionally, around 400,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine will arrive in the first quarter of the new year. Most likely, there will be more vaccines from other companies for EMA to assess in the second and third quarter, but no concrete numbers on these can be known yet.
The Netherlands has contracts with six different vaccine developers: BioNTech / Pfizer, Moderna, Janssen, AstraZeneca, Curevac and Sanofi. If all of these pass necessary tests and are admitted into the European market, over 50 million doses will be available for the Dutch, which is enough to vaccinate over 29 million people. A whopping €7 million has been reserved for these purchases.
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