Flu shot shortage strains Belgian efforts to tackle new Covid-19 wave

Flu shot shortage strains Belgian efforts to tackle new Covid-19 wave
© Belga

Belgium does not have enough flu shots to vaccinate all at-risk groups and prevent overwhelming hospitals with both flu and Covid-19 cases during the autumn flu season.

Belgium's medicines agency AFMPS acquired a total of 2.9 million flu vaccines for the upcoming flu season, 7sur7 reports.

This year's purchase puts Belgium's flu shot stock at just 100,000 more doses than last year and far off from the over 4 million doses that health professionals say are needed.

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At the beginning of June, Belgium's Superior Health Council (CSS) said that it was "more important than ever" to ensure that at-risk groups were vaccinated against the flu this year.

The CSS's advice aimed to prevent flu cases to aggravate the situation of hospitals if the flu season coincided with a new peak of coronavirus infections and hospitalisations.

"The CSS insists on the importance of vaccinating health personnel not only to indirectly protect patients but also to ensure staff are protected and can be available in the event of a new Covid-19 wave," the council said.

Lieven Zwaenepoel from the Association of Pharmacists Belgium (APB) said that to ensure that all people belonging to at-risk groups can be vaccinated, Belgium would need more than 4 million flu shots.

According to the CSS' definition, people belonging to the at-risk group are pregnant women, people with chronic diseases, people aged over 65, people living in residential centres.

The CSS also said that health care staff and those living with people belonging to the previous list of groups should be given the same priority as at-risk populations.

In the light of the flu vaccine shortage, Zwaenepoel said that people who are not part of at-risk groups would have to "show solidarity."

"It is out of the question to vaccinate people, such as healthy workers, who do not belong to this priority group," he said. "Everyone will have to show some solidarity."

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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