Of all people aged over 80 in Flanders who received an invitation for their second Covid-19 booster shot, including those living at home and residents of care homes, barely half have accepted it, according to the Agency for Care and Health.
The previous booster vaccination of this target group already took place over six months ago in most cases; and as the vaccine protection decreases over time, a second booster can boost immunity again.
"It is still a bit early to draw conclusions, but we can indeed see that the vaccination rate is currently just under 50% of the target group in Flanders," Joris Moonens, spokesperson for the Agency for Health and Care, told The Brussels Times.
So far, just under 100,000 second booster shots have been administered. "But the campaign is still ongoing, and just because people have not yet made their way to the vaccination centre, does not mean that they will not. In a few weeks, we will see where we land."
'An offer, not a recommendation'
While the Agency is not worried about the fact that the vaccination rate for second boosters is currently on the low side, Moonens did stress that these second boosters are an important precaution.
"The second booster is an offer, not a recommendation. Everyone has to decide for themselves whether to take it up," he said. "But, of course, there are reasons that we offered the extra shot to precisely this group."
Moonens explained that the over-80s are the most vulnerable group, and that they are also the ones who received their previous dose the longest ago. "We do not want to wait until the hospital figures rise sharply before we boost their immunity again."
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In the meantime, all vaccination centres in Flanders have been asked to prepare for another large-scale booster vaccination campaign after the summer. "Nothing about that has been decided yet, not even whether it will certainly take place," said Moonens.
Still, there is "a strong expectation" that Belgium will be moving towards a booster campaign in the autumn for an even wider target group than the over-80s. "We still have to define how big that target group should be."
When exactly the campaign would start and which vaccines would be administered has yet to be decided.