A very rare side effect among under-31s of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine meant that Belgium stopped using this vaccine last month for the first two vaccine doses of people in this age group.
Younger people can still receive the vaccine for their booster shot (a half dose rather than a full one) but Pfizer's vaccine is now recommended for the first two doses for all people below the age of 31, based on the advice of the Superior Health Council.
"The decision for the basic vaccination of 18- to 30-year-olds is based on international knowledge of possible side effects that are very rare. We took this decision as a precaution," Gudrun Briat, the spokesperson for the Vaccination Task Force, told The Brussels Times.
Preliminary findings from Danish research indicated that vaccination with Moderna resulted in an increased risk of inflammation of the heart muscle in young men following the first or second dose in comparison with the Pfizer vaccine.
"Usually the inflammation is harmless and goes away without being noticed, but if there is an alternative vaccine available, it makes more sense not to take any risks," Briat said.
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She stressed that younger people who were given the vaccine for their basic vaccination should not worry, especially if they received the shots months ago. "This side effect manifests itself a maximum of two months after vaccination."
Some countries extended the age limit on Moderna for booster doses as well, but so far there is no evidence of this side effect for half-doses, according to reports from De Standaard.
"Moderna will be used for the rest of the booster vaccination campaign unless the scientific insights into its use change," Joris Moonens, spokesperson for the Agency for Care and Health, said.