Belgium's Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke wants all people in residential care centres in Belgium to get a third vaccine dose to better protect them against the coronavirus.
Currently, the group of 350,000 to 400,000 people with a weakened immune system (such as people with HIV, cancer patients or people who have undergone a transplant) in Belgium are being invited for a third dose, but Vandenbroucke wants all care centre residents to get one as well.
"There are scientific indications that we should also consider a third shot for the typical resident of an assisted living centre, who is very elderly and vulnerable," he said on VRT's television programme 'De Zevende Dag' on Sunday.
"They were also vaccinated at the beginning of the vaccination campaign, and that was some time ago now," Vandenbroucke added.
- Vaccinate all countries before giving elderly third shot, says Vandenbroucke
- People with reduced immunity will be offered an extra vaccine dose in Belgium
- Booster vaccination: only for those with weakened immune systems, says EU agency
He had previously requested scientific advice on the issue from the Superior Health Council, and is expecting more clarity on Monday or Tuesday.
"I am assuming that there is a scientific basis and that we will therefore also receive an opinion in that direction," he said, adding that the Interministerial Health Conference should make a decision about it in the coming week.
What will happen with older, vulnerable people not living in a residential care centre is not clear yet either. "I am waiting for scientific advice and I want to discuss this with my colleagues."
"However, I think we do know that at the moment we do not yet have elements that indicate that we should give all over-65s a third shot," said Vandenbroucke.
Last week, he stated in the Chamber that it would be more appropriate to first vaccinate developing countries, with less access to vaccines, before giving citizens in wealthy nations a booster dose. "It is a question of international solidarity," he added.
The comments followed a statement by the World Health Organisation (WHO), requesting that wealthy nations wait to administer additional vaccine doses to already-vaccinated citizens until global vaccination rates improve.
The WHO 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 also stressed the importance of this, reminding governments that new variants mutate and develop among unvaccinated populations – posing a global threat.