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Coronavirus

Netherlands Began Its COVID-19 Vaccination Program on Wednesday

THE HAGUE — Nearly two weeks after most other European Union nations, the Netherlands on Wednesday began its COVID-19 vaccination program, with nursing home staff and frontline workers in hospitals first in line for the shot.

Sanna Elkadiri, a nurse at a nursing home for people with dementia, was the first to receive a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a mass vaccination center in Veghel, 120 kilometers (75 miles) southeast of the capital, Amsterdam.

The Dutch government has come under fierce criticism for its late start to vaccinations. Prime Minister Mark Rutte told lawmakers in a debate Tuesday that authorities had focused preparations on the easy-to-handle vaccine made by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which has not yet been cleared for use in the EU, and not the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge did not comment on the criticism as he spoke before Elkadiri rolled up the sleeve of her purple nurse’s uniform to receive the first shot. Instead, he looked forward to a future with the virus under control.

“Finally, after 10 months of crisis, today we are starting to end this crisis,” De Jonge said. But he warned that, “it will take a while before we have all the misery behind us. ”

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