Vaccination of the population in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba cannot be done before mid-February, according to Dutch Minister of Public Health, Welfare and Sport Hugo de Jonge.
Mid-February is the fastest achievable timeframe in which people can be vaccinated against COVID-19, stated the minister during a plenary debate in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday evening.
Earlier during the debate, which had as sole agenda point the vaccination policy, Member of Parliament Rob Jetten of the Democratic Party D66 had asked the minister why vaccination on the Caribbean Netherlands islands would only start mid-February, and not simultaneously with the programme in the Netherlands.
De Jonge acknowledged that while vaccination had started earlier in the Netherlands, on January 6, the vaccination programme in the Caribbean Netherlands would he completed before that of the Netherlands due to the small scale of the islands. In St. Eustatius and Saba, all residents will be able to be vaccinated at once.
De Jonge did not say why vaccination on the islands would start five weeks later than in the Netherlands. During the virtual opening of the Inter-Parliamentary Consultation of the Kingdom IPKO on Wednesday, Member of the Second Chamber Antje Diertens (D66) shed some light on the reason.
Diertens explained that the freezers in which the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines have to be stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius will be arriving a bit later in Bonaire than planned. Diertens noted that despite the later start, it is expected that vaccination on the islands will be completed earlier than in the Netherlands.
Paternotte said in his opening remarks that residents of St. Eustatius and Saba should be vaccinated by the end of February. After the vaccination has been completed, regular flights between the Windward islands can be resumed, which is important to economic recovery, he added.
In Aruba, Minister of Public Health Dangui Oduber explained during a press conference earlier this week that it was not entirely clear how many of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines would be coming to the island, but it would not be a lot, as it was considered a first, limited batch.
Oduber stated that the Netherlands was in the process of sending the freezers to Aruba and they were expected to arrive on January 13. He said Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment RIVM would be in Aruba on January 25 and 26 to check the local preparations for the vaccination programme.
The plan is to start vaccinating mid-February, confirmed Oduber. “We are ready to receive the vaccines and have worked hard in the past months to prepare,” he said. The first group that will receive the vaccine arc healthcare workers and front-liners.
The second group to be vaccinated are persons ages 60 and older in the risk group, followed by those in the same age group but with no underlying medical issues. The rest of the population will come after that. Oduber said it was the intention to vaccinate as many people as possible in the first quarter. He reminded the public that vaccinating was not mandatory and that it was important that people respected each other’s opinion with regard to this issue.
In order to receive the vaccines, Aruba needs to comply with a number of conditions, including an execution plan which contains a personnel plan, a registration system and a communication plan to inform the public of details on where the vaccinations will take place (locations) and how the vaccines will be transported there while maintaining the proper temperature.
The Daily Herald.