Covid vaccination round to start in the fall for healthcare workers, vulnerable groups

Healthcare workers and people who run a higher medical risk when becoming infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus will be eligible for a new vaccine round against Covid-19. The distribution of vaccine doses will begin in the autumn, possibly in October, but an exact date was not given, the Ministry of Health wrote in a statement on Wednesday. Healthcare officials intend to use an mRNA vaccine adapted to tackle the Omicron subvariant XBB, which is currently circulating.

Those who qualify for the jab include adults and children in a high-risk medical group, such as those with an immune disorder, and adults in higher-risk groups which already receive annual invitations for a flu shot. “Healthcare workers with direct patient contact are also eligible for a vaccination,” the ministry said.

The Covid-19 vaccines are already available for pregnant women, who are invited for a shot in the 22nd week of their pregnancy. Additionally, some people can qualify for a booster shot depending on their personal circumstance, such as those who have a medically-vulnerable family member.

Health Minister Ernst Kuipers accepted the advice from the Dutch Healthcare Authority to limit access to Covid-19 vaccines, saying it is not needed for the general population. The ministry noted that “there is a high degree of protection among the population under the age of 60.” This is largely because of previous vaccination rounds in combination with prior infection rates. As a result, “the chance of them becoming seriously ill is relatively small.”

The mRNA vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer which was modified for the XBB subvariant of the coronavirus is currently being evaluated by the European Medicines Agency, the ministry said. “If it turns out in the coming weeks that the new vaccines are not available in time, the [vaccinations experts at the Outbreak Management Team] will be asked for additional advice on which vaccine to use.”

Kuipers has not yet decided on advice from the Council about the necessity of annual booster shots. This decision will come at a later date, the ministry said on Wednesday.

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