Following the example of his UK colleague Boris Johnson, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo wants to speed up the booster vaccination campaign.
This week, the Regions want to come up with a plan to significantly increase the capacity of their vaccination centres, with extra staff and infrastructure, according to reports in local media.
“Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke has already said that he is going to accelerate the campaign in Flanders, by deploying more people and organising it better,” De Croo said on Flemish radio on Tuesday morning.
“We are one of the five countries who have administered the most booster shots,” he said, adding that Beke wants to administer another 900,000 booster doses in the coming weeks.
“We want to maintain the lead we have and we want to do this to the maximum before the end of the year,” De Croo said.
In the meantime, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke has requested advice from the Superior Health Council and the Vaccination Taskforce on a possible accelerated administration of the booster vaccine.
They are investigating whether it would be possible and useful to shorten the current time intervals before a booster shot, and how this could be done operationally.
In Belgium, the time between the initial vaccination(s) and the booster shot is at least two months for those who have been vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson, four months for those who received AstraZeneca and six months for those who have been administered a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
Rapid spread of Omicron
The main reason for the extra push is the rapid rise of the highly infectious Omicron variant of the virus, which will most likely overtake the Delta variant, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Monday.
On Sunday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that all adults in England would be offered a booster shot by the end of the year and launched an “urgent national appeal,” calling on people to get vaccinated in response to the new variant circulating more rapidly.
Currently, 3% of infected people in Belgium are infected with the Omicron variant, announced microbiologist Emmanuel André, who is in charge of the national Covid-19 reference laboratory
“This is ten times more than 8 days ago and it will increase very quickly,” he said on Twitter. “Especially if you have fragile health, please get vaccinated (three doses). Don’t wait any longer.”
According to calculations made by Belgian professor of biostatistics Tom Wenseleers (KU Leuven), Omicron will likely already take over from Delta as the dominant variant this month.
As of Tuesday 14 December, 29% of adults in Belgium (23% of the entire population) received already received a booster dose against Covid-19, which corresponds to 2,785,955 people, according to figures by the Sciensano national health insitute.