Belgium in Brief: Teenage booster indecision threatens February skiing

Belgium in Brief: Teenage booster indecision threatens February skiing
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Since being implemented at the end of 2021, Belgium’s booster vaccination programme has successfully seen 70% of the adult population receive an additional dose. Despite the need for a third dose doing little to quell the discontent of “anti-vaxxers” who fear that they will need to keep on renewing their vaccines with supplementary doses, the booster dose has been largely accepted.

However, it does raise tricky questions with regard to the validity of vaccine passes (Covid Safe Tickets in Belgium but different countries have different names). What had been a fairly straightforward matter before the introduction of booster doses – ie. are you fully vaccinated or not? – has become less clear-cut as initial vaccine doses now “expire” for the purposes of vaccination passes.

For adults willing to get the booster shot, this doesn’t pose too great a problem – the extra dose brings you in line with certificate requirements throughout Europe. But for teenagers, there is now a serious barrier since the booster has yet to be approved for their age group. In practice, this means that thousands of teens may not be able to travel to some popular ski destinations, such as Austria and Italy, because they fall short of the vaccine requirements in these countries.

The European Medicines Agency has been dragging its heels on a decision for weeks, and Belgian health ministers are reluctant to issue their own approval in advance. The result is that unless Belgium’s Superior Health Council comes to an unusually speedy resolution, many holiday plans for the end of February will be jeopardised.

Impatient for an approval that may not materialise, some teens have taken matters into their own hands and are actively seeking to become infected in order to have a recovery certificate in time, which would also qualify them for the vaccine passes. But this comes at considerable risk to their personal health as well as threatening to further strain healthcare systems – an act deemed by health experts as downright “irresponsible”.

And although a week in the snow is a popular fixture of the February carnival holiday, the thought that some more fortunate families might see their normal ski trip disrupted by Europe’s inconsistent health pass regulations must surely be classed as a first world problem.

Have you got holiday plans? Let @Orlando_tbt know.

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