Brussels will roll out vaccination initiatives in large chain stores in the region, including IKEA, Primark, Action, and Carrefour, to increase its coverage rate.
As part of the project, which will take place throughout the whole of September, people will be offered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one shot for full protection.
"We find that various target groups are not or hardly reached through the regular channels of the government or the media," Dominique Michel, chief executive officer of Comeos trade federation told De Morgen.
"The fact is that we reach everyone because everyone goes shopping. And so Comeos selected four chains where many people come from the conscious target group," he added.
In collaboration with the Common Community Commission (Cocom), which has set up several initiatives to increase the region's vaccination rate, customers of Primark, Action, Ikea, and Carrefour in Brussels will, from next Monday, be able to get a vaccine against Covid-19 before or after doing their shopping.
"This project fits in with our aim to reach as many people as possible in an easily accessible way and through different channels. A similar project in France gave good results, I hope we will see the same here," said Inge Neven, head of the Brussels Health Inspectorate.
The shops taking part in the initiative are Action in Molenbeek and Anderlecht (alternating Mondays and Thursdays), while a bus will be stationed in the parking lot of Ikea in Anderlecht every Friday and Saturday.
A medical team will be present in the Primark of Ixelles every week from Wednesday to Friday and a team will be present in the Carrefour of Evere and Auderghem from Monday to Friday to encourage people to get vaccinated.
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The participating shops will provide logistic support, according to Michel.
"After a few weeks, we will evaluate and see if a similar campaign can be set up in other big cities, such as Antwerp," Michel said, where the vaccination coverage rate is also below Belgium's average.
Vaccination for employees
The vaccination coverage rate in Brussels has been widely discussed in previous weeks as it is considerably lower than in other regions: Just 60% of over -18s are fully vaccinated, compared to 90% in Flanders and 77% in Wallonia.
This resulted in Friday's Consultative Committee deciding that measures, including in bars and restaurants and regarding the number of people you can invite into your home, won't be relaxed in Brussels.
According to a recent Cocom press release, more than 150,000 additional people need to be vaccinated if Brussels is to achieve an acceptable vaccination rate among adults.
Neven is also working with companies located in Brussels, who have said they will contribute to raising the vaccination coverage rate by offering vaccination at the workplace or in the company, in the same way, certain businesses do so with the annual flu jab.
"In this phase of the crisis and especially after the holiday period, it is crucial to restore trust and safety in the workplace. Trust is a key word for normalising work in the office," Olivier Willocx, CEO Beci, said.
As part of the initiative, an appointment will be made for a vaccination session in the company if ten or more people sign up to be vaccinated.
The Cocom vaccination team will provide the vaccines and medical staff, whilst a doctor will be present to answer questions from people who still have doubts or concerns.
"This is a unique opportunity for unvaccinated people to protect themselves against the coronavirus. The sooner people are vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to normal life," Neven said.