People over 75 next in Lux vaccination drive

Luxembourg will receive 1,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine on 11 January, health minister Paulette Lenert has said, outlining the next steps in the country’s vaccination drive.

The contracts signed by the EU with vaccine suppliers guarantee doses for more than one million people in the grand duchy, Lenert (LSAP) said in parliament, although it will take some time for them to arrive.

“It’s a success,” Lenert said about the Commission’s procurement strategy, after criticism by EU countries this week over the slow roll-out of the vaccine. “The problem isn’t the orders, it’s production. There’s an enormous need,” she said.

There will be enough doses from Pfizer/BioNTech to vaccinate 36,000 people by the end of March, Lenert said, with more coming after the EU Commission ordered another 300 million jabs.

“It’s a tough world market,” Lenert said. “Together we are stronger than alone.” Prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) earlier in the week had said Luxembourg would probably have lost out on the first round of vaccine shipments altogether had it not been for the EU because of its weak negotiating position as a small country.

The government is meanwhile analysing a recommendation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) published on Friday that Pfizer vials contain six doses of the vaccine, rather than five.

Moderna will deliver the first 1,200 doses out of an order of 55,000 on Monday, Lenert said.

Vaccination strategy

Luxembourg in late December inoculated its first healthcare workers and started immunising 6,200 people living in care homes on 6 January.

In a next phase, the government is proposing to begin vaccinating people over the age of 75, followed by the 65 to 75 age group.

The following two groups would be people over the age of 50 considered high-risk under guidelines published by Luxembourg’s infectious diseases council, and people under 50 in that category as well as people under 50 living in precarious conditions.

Finally, people aged 16 to 65 with no pre-existing conditions or other risk factors securing them an earlier place in line will be invited to get vaccinated, Lenert said.

These proposals will be discussed with an ethics committee before being finalised. Cross-border workers are also set to be invited in their given category, Lenert said.

Anyone who doesn’t want to get the jab when first invited can be added to a waiting list, the health minister said. This could buy undecided residents some time, she said, although they would then have to wait their turn depending on the availability of the vaccine and demand in each next group invited to get the shot.

As of Friday, 1,400 people received the first dose of the vaccine, Lenert said. The statistics will be added to the weekly coronavirus report published by the government.

After the UK announced that it might delay the second jab to give more people partial immunity with the vaccine doses available, Lenert said Luxembourg “will not take any adventurous initiatives” but rely on EMA recommendations.