Luxembourg: looking to learn from others on vaccine roll-out
Luxembourg is looking at other European countries to see how it can accelerate its vaccination campaign, Health Minister Paulette Lenert told the Luxembourg Times on Monday, though supply of the doses is the bottleneck that largely determines the pace of the roll-out in the Grand Duchy.
The speed of Malta's vaccination campaign - the highest in the European Union - was “really surprising” Lenert also said in an online discussion.
“This is something I just don’t have the answer (for) yet”, Lenert said, raising the possibility that Malta could be giving out as many first doses as possible and not save them up for the required second shot.
With just over 7 shots handed out per 100 people, Luxembourg's vaccination campaign is one of the slowest in Europe. Malta has already given out 21 shots for each 100 residents, according to the Our World in Data website.
"Things just don't speed up the way we had expected in the first phase [...] It doesn't surprise me that much that people are just sceptical at this time," Lenert said, in reaction to a survey of conference participants, half of whom said it would take Luxembourg at least until September to vaccinate 70% of people.
"I just hope I will be able within the next days or weeks to have more clarity on what will happen," Lenert said.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel on Friday prolonged the current restrictions to stop the spread of the pandemic until 2 April. Bars and restaurants will remain closed and the country remains under an overnight curfew.
The government is monitoring vaccination campaigns elsewhere, particularly regarding the delay of second doses. “If we had evidence of this (efficacy of one dose), that would certainly help speed up things," Lenert said.
The government could at some stage change its policy of putting aside all second jabs of the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines, Lenert said, but wanted to avoid being in a position where no second jabs were available.
The single biggest issue facing Luxembourg is slow and unreliable supply, Lenert said: "It is not a matter of human resources or logistics”.
Whilst the Pfizer deliveries “come as promised”, the government is still experiencing unexpected delivery disruptions of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which are often relayed to the ministry at a day’s notice, Lenert said.
Asked about the decision to restrict the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under 65 years, Luxembourg followed French and German recommendations and not the guidance from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Lenert said.
Early this year, the French and German pharmaceutical regulators said they did not have enough data to see if the AstraZeneca vaccine was effective in people older than 65 years and French President Macron shortly after said that the Oxford vaccine was “quasi ineffective” in old people.
During the discussion, Lenert had earlier said that Luxembourg exclusively relies on the EMA for vaccine approval as Luxembourg does not dispose of such an agency, unlike France and Germany.
One of the reasons for the country's slow roll-out is the fact that only one in two people show up when invited for a vaccination in one of the four centres in the country. But elsewhere, take-up rates were much better, Lenert said.
More than 90% of care home residents and some 70% of hospital staff have already received a vaccination against Covid-19.