Luxembourg no-shows to get second shot at vaccination
Luxembourg will give the high number of residents that fail to show up to receive the coronavirus vaccine a second chance to get the injection, hoping to speed up its inoculation campaign, one of the slowest in Europe.
Only half of the invitees in vaccination centres are showing up at their appointment, the Luxembourg Times reported last week, partly explaining the country's low vaccination rate, which is below the EU average, and only a fraction of the rates the UK and the US have reached by now.
People that did not make it to their first appointment during the first vaccination phase that started in December last year, can now put themselves on a waiting list next week, the government said on Friday.
The news came amid a lingering controversy about people accused of jumping the vaccination queue in hospitals. Three governing board members of the Hospital group Robert Schuman, who are also well-known businessmen, have been accused of receiving the shot before it was their turn.
Some lawmakers accused the men of theft, but Health Minister Paulette Lenert said on Saturday she would not involve the prosecutor’s office in the case, saying the early vaccinations were due to a 'misunderstanding'.
Nevertheless, the government is now also looking into additional allegations that family members of staff and retired staff in two hospitals had been vaccinated despite not falling into eligible categories which the government has defined, Lenert told public radio station 100,7 on Saturda.
Luxembourg’s decentralised healthcare system gives hospitals a fair amount of leeway over how they are run, unlike for instance those in the UK or Israel.
The Centre Hospitalier du Nord in Ettelbrück had reported six questionable vaccination cases to the government, its medical director told 100,7, and the board of directors will meet on Monday to analyse the situation.
The pace of Luxembourg's vaccination campaign has slowly been picking up in recent days, with more vaccination centres opening, and a wider group of people being targeted, such as those above the age of 75. Yet the first phase of the campaign, for healthcare staff, has not yet been fully concluded.
As of 26 February, the country had administered 36,071 doses overall, of which 26,089 are first doses, and 9,982 second doses. Currently, all three different vaccines Luxembourg uses require two doses.
A single-jab medicine from Johnson & Johnson will likely be granted approval for the EU market in early March, with deliveries expected in April.
The Luxembourg government said on Thursday that the country would save fewer second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine so that more first doses, could be given out right away. A week earlier, Luxembourg had said it would increase the gap between two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from four to ten weeks, following the example of the UK, as a first dose of the vaccine grants around 76% of protection for up to 3 months.
Luxembourg has less severe social restrictions in place than many European countries and infections with the virus are currently increasing. Wastewater analysis also shows higher prevalence of the virus. Experts have warned that a slow vaccination rate gives the virus a higher chance of mutating, and become more resilient against the vaccines that are currently in use.