Following the approval of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to use the modified Covid-19 vaccines on Thursday, Belgian authorities announced that they will start using the updated shots for its autumn booster vaccination campaign.
The United Kingdom was the first country to approve the modified vaccines – which contain both the original Covid-19 strain and the Omicron BA.1 variant – in mid-August. Belgium stated that it was waiting for EMA approval, which has now been given.
"This vaccination campaign is again organised through our vaccination centres. They are fully preparing to start vaccinating from 12 September," announced Flemish Health Minister Hilde Crevits in a press release.
"A big unknown was the approval of the EMA for the vaccines adapted to the Omicron variant. So it is good news that the approval is here and our campaign can start," she added, stressing that the second booster remains important, especially for vulnerable people.
Priority groups first
The authorities started sending out invitations to the various target groups in mid-August, and nearly 800,000 people already received theirs, according to Crevits. In practice, nearly half of all over-65s received their invite, as well as 40% of immunocompromised people and 30% of healthcare workers.
Belgium's Interministerial Conference (IMC) on Health recommends vaccination for vulnerable people as well as those living with them, people aged over 65 and healthcare workers. Once the priority groups have all been invited, the rest of the general adult population will also receive an invitation.
The Qvax reserve list will also be opened again to ensure that no vaccines are lost. The aim is to give the most vulnerable people the opportunity to be vaccinated by the end of September, giving the others the chance to get their dose in the month after that.
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"Timeliness plays an important role: the goal of the autumn vaccination is to strengthen protection against serious illness from Covid-19 before the next outbreak of infections occurs," Crevits' press release stated.
Meanwhile, both Pfizer and Moderna have confirmed deliveries of the modified vaccines: more than one million modified Pfizer vaccines will be delivered on 7 September, along with nearly 300,000 modified Moderna vaccines in the same week.
This means that 1.3 million modified vaccines will immediately be available at the start of the vaccination campaign, and another 1.4 million are expected in the week of 12 September, with more deliveries to follow in the weeks after.