Belgium to discuss general J&J and AstraZeneca booster shots

Belgium to discuss general J&J and AstraZeneca booster shots
Credit: Belga

Anybody living in Belgium who has received both AstraZeneca coronavirus doses or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine could soon receive an extra dose.

Currently, booster doses are being administered with Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines to vulnerable groups. However, this week it will also be discussed for the other vaccines that are being administered in Belgium, and that these will be given to all people.

"Tomorrow (Tuesday), the Superior Health Council will be meeting and on Wednesday, the Health ministers will be discussing it during the Interministerial Conference (IMC) on Health. Whether or not a decision is taken depends on the discussions," Flemish Health minister Wouter Beke's spokesperson told The Brussels Times.

Gudrun Briat, a spokesperson for the Vaccination task force, also confirmed that the Superior Health Council is expected to announce its opinion by the end of this month.

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Belgium already administers booster shots to residents of care centres and people with weakened immune systems. In addition, all over-65s are also given the dose to help to keep the protection against the coronavirus sufficiently high.

Around 1.5 million received the AstraZeneca dose and around 400,000 were given J&J's vaccine in Belgium. In practice, people who received one of these vaccines and were eligible for a booster dose would have received a Pfizer or Moderna shot as their booster dose.

Declining efficacy

Vaccinologist Pierre Van Damme (University of Antwerp) stressed that, if a decision is made to administer additional doses, this does not mean the vaccines are bad.

"Both vaccines have done a good job of protecting us from complications and hospitalisation. But recent international studies show that their efficacy declines faster than the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna."

The latest study, published in "Science" medical journal, showed that six months after the first (and for the time being only) shot, vaccine effectiveness of the J&J dose drops to 13.1%.

Additionally, Janssen (the company producing the vaccine) announced in August that people who receive a second "booster" dose have up to nine times more antibodies in their blood than those who received just one dose.

If administered six to eight months after the first dose, the dose generates "a rapid and robust increase in spike-binding antibodies."

Virologist Steven Van Gucht, meanwhile, has stressed that even if a decision is made to give all people an additional AstraZeneca of J&J shot, this will have a limited effect on the fourth wave.

"It is mainly our behaviour that will determine how high the peak will be this time. After all, there are still a lot of people over 65 waiting for their third shot."

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