Belgium should offer booster dose to teenagers voluntarily, says Beke

Belgium should offer booster dose to teenagers voluntarily, says Beke
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The delayed decision from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) regarding booster vaccines for teenagers could complicate travel for this age group. Now, Belgium is proposing to offer 12 to 17-year-olds the vaccine on a voluntary basis.

The different ministers of health (IMC) are asking the country's Superior Health Council to issue advice about a booster dose for teenagers aged between 12 and 17, Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke announced on Twitter on Wednesday.

"The intention is to use an 'informed consent' form that states that there is no official EMA approval for the booster dose yet, but that there is advice from the Superior Health Council," Beke's spokesperson, Bart Croes, told The Brussels Times.

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This system of informed consent would be similar to the one used in June 2021 which allowed under-41s to voluntarily get the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot, after Belgium stopped offering the jab to that age group following very rare side effects.

"In the case of the booster dose, both the teenager and their parents will have to sign such a form, to indicate that they understand the risk," Croes added.

Currently, some EU countries – such as Austria or Italy – require booster shots to enter, even though the EMA has not yet officially approved the additional vaccine dose for that age group. This creates "a patchwork" of measures and conditions.

Issues with skiing holidays

Earlier on Wednesday, youth travel organisation Kazou called for clarity about whether teenagers can receive a booster shot in time. It wars that 2,000 young people may not be able to go on ski holidays this carnival break.

"Around 2,000 young people are impatient to leave for a ski or snowboard camp this carnival break. But Austria and Italy, two popular destinations, are tightening their rules from 1 February," Seppe Van Pottelbergh of Kazou told VRT.

For Austria and Italy, the last coronavirus vaccine dose may not have been administered more than six months before February, while many young people in Belgium already were vaccinated in summer.

"So their vaccination certificates will no longer be valid in Austria and Italy by the spring break. This means that we would not be able to let them leave for camp," he said, reiterating the urgency for the booster shot to be approved.

Van Pottelbergh said that "everything must be done to give young people their booster shot as soon as possible. We still have a month, so we are hopeful that it will work."

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