Vaccinate all countries before giving elderly third shot, says Vandenbroucke

Vaccinate all countries before giving elderly third shot, says Vandenbroucke
Credit: Belga

Countries with less access to vaccines should be given coronavirus vaccines before Belgium starts giving a third dose to over-65s and people with underlying conditions, says Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke.

For the time being, there are no plans to expand the scheme for a third dose beyond the group of 350,000 to 400,000 people with a weakened immune system in Belgium, Vandenbroucke said in the Chamber on Tuesday.

Belgium's Superior Health Council, the scientific advisory body for the Federal Public Health Service, is looking into the possibility of vaccinating other groups for the third time but "there is insufficient scientific evidence today to justify a third shot," Vandenbroucke said.

"It is more appropriate to vaccinate developing countries first," he said. "It is a question of international solidarity."

Vandenbroucke referred to an article published by The Lancet on Monday, stating that current evidence does not support boosters for the general population at this time. However, scientific knowledge evolves, meaning that the possibility of a booster shot is not entirely excluded, he said.

The statement comes soon after the World Health Organisation (WHO) requested that wealthy nations wait to administer additional vaccine doses to already-vaccinated citizens until global vaccination rates improve.

The organisation set a target of at least 40% of the population of each country being vaccinated before rolling out further vaccinations in countries that have comparatively high vaccination rates. Scientists stress the importance of this, reminding governments that new variants morph and develop among unvaccinated populations - posing a global threat.

Next week, people with a weakened immune system, such as HIV or cancer patients, will start getting invited for a third dose, Vandenbroucke confirmed.

Patients unable to leave their homes will get their third dose from mobile teams and kidney dialysis patients will be able to get it in the dialysis centre; most of the other patients have to go to a vaccination centre.

Orlando Whitehead contributed to reporting.

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