From today (Tuesday), Belgium is sending out invitations for a fourth dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for people with reduced immunity, Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke announced.
This group already received their third shot in September and will now be invited for a repeat vaccination, Beke said on Flemish radio on Tuesday morning.
"For Flanders, we are talking about some 200,000 people who will be invited," he said. "For people with weakened immunity, the third shot completed the basic vaccination schedule. The fourth dose is considered their booster dose."
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The Brussels-Capital Region and Wallonia also started sending out invitations today, said the head of the Brussels Health Inspectorate Inge Neven during a press briefing on Tuesday. "This process runs simultaneously in all the countries' regions."
In practice, it concerns some 400,000 people from 12 years old in the entire country, including those with congenital immune disorders, people who receive chronic kidney dialysis, certain HIV patients, people with blood cancer or other malignant tumours or patients who have undergone a stem cell or organ transplant.
What about the rest of the population?
Giving the rest of society a fourth shot is "not on the agenda at the moment," Beke said, adding that he did request an opinion from the Superior Health Council about offering another dose for patients in residential care centres.
"They already received their third dose in October or November, which is quite some time ago now," Beke said. "But we have not yet received any advice on this."
Beke made it clear that he is not ruling out the possibility that a fourth dose will be on the agenda for the entire population in autumn, but he underlined that it will depend on a number of circumstances.
"How long will the protection from this vaccine last? Will we be confronted with variants again? Will a vaccine that offers an answer to this be available at that time?" Beke said. "These are all uncertainties that we have to live with at the moment, but which we are preparing for in practical terms, should that be the case."