Flanders sets up medical screening for Ukrainian refugees

As the Ukrainian refugees do not follow the regular procedure when arriving in Belgium and therefore skip the usual medical screening for infectious diseases, Flanders is taking a different approach.

Refugees normally follow the circuit and receive medical screening via Fedasil (Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers), but as Ukrainians now enter Flemish society directly and through various channels, early detection of infectious diseases is not done systematically upon arrival.

"Yet they must be able to receive the same offer, both for their own protection and for that of others within the group of Ukrainian refugees and the whole of society," said Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke in a press release.

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His department is setting up a model to organise those steps in a decentralised manner. In cooperation with the general practitioners' circles, Flanders will be able to offer the Ukrainian refugees preventive medical care and vaccinations.

"We remain in a precarious health situation where the coronavirus is still present and we want to avoid new outbreaks of infectious diseases as much as possible," Beke said. "Especially in our contacts with vulnerable people we have to pay the necessary attention to this."

Low vaccination rate

Ukraine has low vaccination coverage for almost all infectious diseases, and most refugees do not have a valid vaccination certificate. This means they have to be fully vaccinated again, to protect their own and the public health – the same way as other refugees coming to Belgium.

If they have no proof of vaccination, they will be offered a full vaccination based on their age.

The preventive medical examination refugees will be offered includes an adequate detection and follow-up of Tuberculosis (TB), and the administering of extra priority vaccinations such as Covid-19, Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) and Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis.

Additionally, they will also receive appropriate information on medical care.

"It is only logical that we do everything possible to medically screen these people and, if needed, to provide the necessary medical and psychological care," Beke said. "I notice a lot of solidarity in Flanders on this issue, and we will do our part."

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