The GEMS expert group advising the government on the pandemic recommends making vaccination mandatory for a number of professions, including teachers, waiters and hairdressers, a recently published report shows.
Friday's Consultative Committee announced that vaccination will become obligatory for healthcare workers, but a recommendation from the expert group, including Steven Van Gucht, Marc Van Ranst and Erika Vlieghe, shows that they would have liked to see that obligation extended to a number of other professions as well.
The advice, given to the government ahead of last week's Committee meeting, urges the authorities to "consider mandatory vaccination for professions with a particular societal risk (such as the healthcare sector), and for professions with high occupational (individual) risk."
Specifically, they refer to people working in education (such as teachers), the hospitality industry (such as waiters), meat processing, professional sporters and close contact professions (including hairdressers, beauticians and tattoo artists).
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"However, before such an obligation, all efforts to stimulate intrinsic motivation need to be mobilised and exploited," the experts added.
In that case, possible "collateral damage" towards public trust in the government and other vaccination programs (such as against measles and pertussis) should also be taken into account, according to them.
Additionally, "in situations or times with higher viral circulation," the experts urge the government to add a negative test for fully vaccinated people before granting a Covid Safe Ticket (which allows events to take place without any restrictions).
By making fully vaccinated people present a negative test result as well when the virus circulates more strongly, they want to avoid the spread of the virus through breakthrough infections (infections in fully vaccinated people).
Going further and extending the use of the Covid Safe Ticket from events only to everyday use, such as in nightlife, bars or at work, - as is being considered in Brussels - was rejected by the GEMS.
According to them, it is potentially "counterproductive" and a measure that "could be interpreted as a hidden obligation."
Despite that advice, however, the Consultative Committee decided on Friday that the country's Regions could decide for themselves whether or not to use the Covid Safe Ticket "for activities other than events" if "the epidemiological or vaccination situation requires it."