Huge demand for handful of unused vaccines
Thousands of people signed up on Friday for the chance to receive a last-minute dose of any vaccines unused at the end of each day at centres across Luxembourg.
More than 4,000 people between the ages of 16 and 54 joined a waiting list for one of the rare doses to prevent Covid-19 that otherwise risk being wasted, Prime Minister Xavier and Health Minister Paulette Lenert said at a press conference.
“It’s important no dose is thrown away”, Bettel said, emphasising that spare doses are rare.
Out of 94,815 doses administered in the first three weeks of April, just five were discarded, Bettel said.
Those registered on the waiting list must be able to reach a centre within 20 minutes of getting a call that a jab is available. If participants in the scheme do not receive an invitation within seven days, they must register again.
Unlike the separate waiting list for unused AstraZeneca doses, which opened last week for those aged 30 to 54, volunteers will be chosen according to their age, with preference given to older people, Bettel said.
Health conditions remain stable, with Luxembourg averaging around 200 new daily infections for the past weeks, Bettel said. That indicates that the decision to allow reopening of outdoor terraces at cafes and restaurants did not increase the spread of the virus, Bettel said.
“New measures did not have a (negative) impact”, he said.
The government could further ease restrictions if the pandemic does not worsen, Bettel said. The government is expected to announce new plans ahead of the current set of restrictions expiring on 15 May. Those restrictions include an overnight curfew and limits on how many people can gather in public or private settings.
Reacting to India
Following the soaring number of deaths and rapid spread of the disease in India, Luxembourg on Friday tightened rules for airline passengers travelling between India and the Grand Duchy. Passengers will need to provide a negative PCR test before departure, take another test on arrival in Luxembourg, and then undergo a mandatory 7-day quarantine before taking another test, Lenert said.
A version of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 that had mutated in India has appeared in Luxembourg, the National Health Laboratory said on Thursday. All three cases involved travellers from India, the lab said.
Luxembourg is sending 58 respirators to India to respond to the emergency situation there, the government said on Friday. Indian government last week requested urgent assistance from European Union countries.
Recently, India has recorded more than 300,000 infections daily and its medical infrastructure is under great pressure, especially facing an acute shortage of oxygen, antiviral drugs and hospital equipment.
Huge demand for AstraZeneca
Almost 30,000 volunteers have volunteered to receive a shot of AstraZeneca, of which 14,400 have already made an appointment to get a jab, Bettel said. The scheme was introduced last Friday after Luxembourg’s Superior Council on Infectious Diseases recommended to restrict the use of the British-Swedish serum for over 55-year olds due to blood-clotting concerns.
Luxembourg’s top infectious disease body also advised giving the Johnson & Johnson jab to people over the age of 30. The American pharma giant delayed its rollout in the EU after the US drug regulator suspended J&J jabs over similar blood-clotting cases, but will resume shipments shortly, Bettel said.
Luxembourg will have enough vaccine for 164,000 people until the end of June in addition to the 193,000 who have had at least one dose already, Bettel said.
Last week, vaccinations dropped by over half after a temporary shortage in supply. Bettel had warned that Luxembourg remains at the mercy of its vaccine suppliers and that fluctuations can still occur.
Long lagging behind other EU member states, Luxembourg's vaccine rollout has closed in on the bloc's average in recent weeks, with 22% of the country's total population now having received at least one dose compared to the EU average of 23%, according to the University of Oxford research project Our World in Data.
The European Union projects that 70% of its adult population could have received at least one dose by mid-July.