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Belgium in Brief: Flip Flop For Fifty-Five-Year-Olds

Credit: Belga

AstraZeneca – the vaccine known the world over, and not for the best reasons.

Headlines worldwide have spoken of supply issues, concerns over side effects and even a name change, but Belgium’s relationship with the vaccine has also come with some less than direct advice.

Let me explain.

At the start of February, Belgium decided not to administer the company’s vaccine to people over 55-years-old yet, while waiting for data about its efficacy in the elderly.

So. No AstraZeneca for them.

Fast forward two months, however, and Belgium has made a complete 180.

Yesterday, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke announced that the country would temporarily halt vaccinations for people aged 55 and under.

So. No AstraZeneca ONLY for them.

The decision followed an announcement by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) from earlier that day concerning a “possible link” between AstraZeneca’s vaccine and very rare cases of blood clotting. More on that here.

According to the country’s health ministers, the decision will have “little impact” on the vaccination rollout, as mainly elderly people are currently being vaccinated, who can still receive the jab.

What’s your take on the only news people want to talk about?

Let @maithechini@johnstonjules know on Twitter. They both wrote this today.

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1. Temporary limit on AstraZeneca vaccine will have ‘minimal impact’ on vaccination rollout

The decision by Belgium to temporarily limit the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to those over the age of 55 will have little impact on the country’s vaccination campaign, according to Federal and Flemish health ministers Frank Vandenbroucke and Wouter Beke. Read more.

2. Risk group vaccinations list: What you need to know

Starting from today, people living in Belgium can check whether or not they are on the list of high-risk patients who will get priority vaccination over the coming weeks.

After the elderly, an estimated 1.2 to 1.5 million people between 18 and 64 years old who are considered at increased risk due to an underlying condition will be vaccinated, according to the national health institute Sciensano. Read more.

3. Brussels police make first sexual harassment citations as part of new undercover operation

Brussels police have made their first citations as part of a new undercover operation targeting acts of sexual harassment on the streets of the Belgian capital.

Such acts – which include scolding, ridicule, obscene gestures, assault or attempted assault, groping and stalking in a public or semi-public space – have been punishable by up to one month in prison or a fine of €50 to €1,000 since 2014, but with its new project, the city hopes to further “increase the safety and quality of life in Brussels for girls and women.” Read More.

4. Vaccine link to Belgium’s one fatal blood clotting case remains unclear

It currently remains unclear if the one fatal case of blood clotting with a low platelet count following vaccination in Belgium was linked to the vaccine, according to the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP).

This one reported case was fatal, but that could also be due to an underlying condition, the FAMHP stated on its website. “This report was investigated in detail,” the FAMHP said, adding that “there are underlying conditions that could explain the death.” Read more.

5. Finally free, after five months of quarantine, the swans of Bruges

Yesterday saw the release of 88 swans, familiar figures on the canals of Bruges, from quarantine, after no fewer than 142 days of quarantine, or almost five months of isolation.

Unusually in this day and age, this story has nothing to do with Covid-19, although the majority of the population may well feel sympathy at being cooped up for months at a time. Read More.

6. Leuven students want to remove n-word from fraternity cantus songs

The Leuven student umbrella organisation Loko is working on a new student codex that seeks to eliminate some of the more controversial cantus songs, including at least one that has the n-word.

A cantus is an activity organised by mainly Belgian, Dutch, French, Baltic, or Afrikaans fraternities and student organisations, wherein members get together and sing traditional songs and drink beer. Read More.

7. Port of Antwerp anticipates busy terminals after Suez incident

While the Suez Canal is open again, the consequences for global shipping traffic will continue to be felt for quite some time, including here in Belgium.

The Port of Antwerp is Europe’s second-largest seaport, after Rotterdam, and ships will arrive and depart from it with delays, causing busy terminals and peaks in cargo. Read More.

Jules Johnston & Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times