Second booster after all: Belgium offers extra vaccine dose to elderly

Second booster after all: Belgium offers extra vaccine dose to elderly
Credit: Belga

People aged 80 and residents of care homes (regardless of age) in Belgium will soon be offered a second booster vaccine, the Interministerial Conference (IMC) on Public Health decided on Friday.

The decision comes as a surprise, as a report issued by the Superior Health Council yesterday (Thursday) stated that a systematic second booster – or what would be the fourth dose for many – for that age group was not necessary for now.

"The over-80s in our society and the people living in our residential care centres are the most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill from Covid-19," Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke said in a press release.

"Their immunity can already be less optimal due to their age and the danger of an outbreak is still around the corner in residential care centres, where the virus can circulate quickly," he said. The elderly were also the first to receive the first booster last year, meaning that for them, the most time has passed since the last immunity boost.

In total, 400,000 to 450,000 people in Flanders are eligible for receiving an extra booster. For most of this target group, the previous shot dated from October or November 2021, six to seven months ago.

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"Therefore, we want to give these people the opportunity and choice to be vaccinated again and keep their personal protection as high as possible," Beke said. "For our younger population, the risks of infection are lower and we do not consider a second booster to be sufficiently useful at this time."

In Flanders, all people from these target groups will be informed about this offer – by letter and digitally – and will be able to make an appointment for vaccination. Within two to three weeks, the vaccination centres will be ready to vaccinate this target group.

In order to receive the second booster, at least four months must have passed since the last Covid-19 vaccination, said the Agency for Care and Health. Additionally, Flanders still has more than enough Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available.

For most elderly people living at home, the booster vaccination will again take place in the vaccination centres. For those who cannot move around, however, a home vaccination can be arranged. For those living in residential care homes, the booster vaccination will be organised within the institution.

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