On Wednesday morning, Belgium's Health Ministers gave the green light to offer all those who were initially vaccinated with the single-dose Johnson & Johnson jab an extra shot from mid-December.
The Superior Health Council on Tuesday issued its recommendation stating that everyone who received the Johnson & Johnson shot should get a second dose, as the protection of a single dose diminishes.
"We have already decided to roll out an extra shot for Johnson & Johnson," announced Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke on Twitter, who is a member of the Interministerial Health Conference (IMC).
De #IMC Volksgezondheid zal een globale visie uitwerken over de 3e prik. Op 27 november zullen we de operationalisering ervan bespreken. Zo geven we de vaccinatiecentra de duidelijkheid die ze vragen. Ondertussen hebben we al beslist om een extra prik voor J&J uit te rollen.— Wouter Beke (@wbeke) November 10, 2021
"The IMC will develop a global vision on the third shot. On 27 November, we will discuss its implementation," he said, adding that this will give the vaccination centres "the clarity they require."
The extra dose will provide an mRNA vaccine (from Pfizer or Moderna) to the roughly 400,000 people in Belgium who were vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson.
This campaign will begin in mid-December, when the invitations for the extra shot will be sent, the Vaccination Taskforce confirmed in a press release.
Before the summer, the J&J vaccine was particularly popular among young people in Belgium as only one dose was required to be considered fully vaccinated. This allowed many people to travel or attend certain events or festivals more quickly.
Additionally, the single shot meant it was the vaccine of choice for hard-to-reach groups such as homeless people, sex workers, and people with an addiction.
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However, research and studies abroad have shown that the protection from a J&J vaccination systematically decreases over time, more so than with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
In August, Johnson & Johnson already announced 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.
“This second shot is viewed as a completion of the vaccination schedule, and is not considered a booster vaccination,” Sofie Verdoodt, spokesperson for the Superior Health Council, explained to The Brussels Times on Tuesday.
Additionally, even though extra doses for everyone who received AstraZeneca’s vaccine are also being discussed, the Council has yet to issue an opinion on a possible third shot, she said. “There is still some more room for discussion there."