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Netherlands Begins Coronavirus Vaccinations

Health care worker Sanna Elkadiri, left, the first Dutch recipient of a COVID vaccine, gets her shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in Veghel, Netherlands, Jan. 6, 2021.

The Netherlands delivered its first coronavirus vaccine dose Wednesday to a care home nurse, nearly two weeks after other European Union nations began inoculations.

A shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was given live on television to nurse Sanna Elkadiri, the first recipient at a mass vaccination center in Veghel, 120 kilometers southeast of Amsterdam.

Afterwards, Elkadiri told an interviewer, "This is a very important moment for me as a person who works in the care sector. You want to provide the care knowing that your clients are safe. Without the vaccine that is not possible but from now on I can do it."

The Dutch government has come under fierce criticism for its late start to vaccinations.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte told parliament Tuesday his government had focused preparations on the easy-to-handle AstraZeneca vaccine, which has not yet been cleared for use in the European Union. Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, AstaZeneca’s does not require deep-freeze storage at a certain temperature.

The Netherlands is in a five-week lockdown as infection rates rise across the country.

Nearly 12,000 people are confirmed to have died of COVID-19 in the Netherlands since the pandemic started, although officials say the true number is likely higher because not all people who died with symptoms were tested. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.