After people were outraged by the news that Dutch GPs were throwing away coronavirus vaccines, doctors have come up with a solution. Dutch general practitioners and institutions with leftover coronavirus vaccines can now redistribute them via a website that went live yesterday.
People who want to be vaccinated but haven’t yet received an official invite from the RIVM can search on prullenbakvaccin.nl. The website will direct them to a provider with any leftover vaccines within 20 kilometres of their residence, reports the NOS.
The website was set up by Amsterdam UMC surgeon Marlies Schijven, a GP in training Bernard Leenstra and a software developer Anees Saban. The main goal of prullebakvaccin.nl is to prevent coronavirus vaccines from being binned. This way they can offer leftover vaccines to those who want to get a shot.
“If I don’t have to throw away any more vaccines thanks to this initiative, that would be great. I’ve seen terribly sick people here and it just hurts when you have to throw away vaccines,” says Leenstra.
Creating own guidelines
There are official guidelines on what to do with residual vaccines, but these haven’t always been clear. Therefore, GGDs and GPs started to set up their own systems to avoid vaccine waste whether or not these were in line with the official guidelines.
One topic of debate was the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was paused in the Netherlands for people under 60. According to the Royal Dutch Medical Association, individuals under the age of 60 can be vaccinated by AstraZeneca under strict conditions — especially when it concerns preventing waste.
“I think it’s ridiculous to refuse to give this vaccine to people under 60. It is my job to provide good information about the extremely rare side effects. All that uncertainty shouldn’t have been necessary,” argues Leenstra.
Ministry of Health doesn’t approve
The Dutch Ministry of Health thinks that the idea is thoughtful but “not sensible.” It maintains that vaccine distribution should be determined by the RIVM.
Doctors with leftover vaccines should, in theory, be able to redistribute leftover vaccines via “vaccination brokers” who follow the national vaccination strategy. This means the most vulnerable and the elderly should be the first to be offered leftover vaccines.
Using up leftovers
However, the goal of prullebakvaccin.nl is not to vaccinate based on the groups determined by the ministry. “We use up leftovers. Those are always there and cannot always go to the group whose turn it is according to the ministry,” says Marco Blanker — a GP who was forced to bin 60 doses of the vaccine last month.
He adds that what this initiative does is “not in conflict but rather supports the policy of the ministry, in the sense that we prevent even one dose from being thrown away.”
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