Belgium has urged the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to quickly make a decision about offering teenagers a coronavirus booster dose, says Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke.
More than half of the entire Belgian population has already received a booster dose but those aged between 12 and 17 have not yet had the chance to get it; this could lead to issues if they want to travel abroad during the carnival break at the end of February.
“To administer vaccines, you need a licence. But at the moment, the EMA has unfortunately not yet granted permission for a booster shot in young people,” Vandenbroucke said on Flemish radio on Wednesday.
Unfortunately, Belgium does not have much say in when the EMA makes a decision, he said. “We have been pushing for it to happen quickly. But frankly, I cannot say when that will be. I hope it will not be long. I have already asked several times and they say that it might not take long anymore, but I do not dare put a date on it.”
In Belgium, the authorities are “very much in favour” of offering the booster shot to teenagers, Vandenbroucke stressed. He added that Belgium’s Superior Health Council is already considering whether to administer the booster dose to teenagers but awaits EMA approval. “They are looking into that now, but you cannot just do that without a licence.”
Last weekend, Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke already stated that Belgium “can quickly start offering teenagers a booster shot” if the Superior Health Council gives a positive opinion. “Our vaccination centres are running at full speed and this decision can be implemented quickly.”
Not only will vaccinated teenagers need such a booster dose if Belgium starts requiring it for a valid Covid Safe Ticket (CST), a third shot will likely also be necessary for those who want to go on a skiing holiday during the Carnival break (Saturday 26 February to Sunday 6 March).
Tightened rules for skiing
A number of popular ski destinations in the EU (such as Austria, Italy and France) have already tightened rules for entering the country. This will complicate arrangements for those wishing to go there who are older than 12 but not yet old enough to have a booster dose.
From 1 February, Austria and Italy are reducing the validity of the vaccination certificate from nine to six months for those over 12 years old.
In practice, this means that anyone vaccinated before 1 September who has not had a booster shot can only enter the countries with a negative PCR test certificate (less than 48 hours for Italy, less than 72 hours old for Austria). Italy could also require those who have not yet received a booster dose to spend five days in quarantine upon arrival.
France is also tightening its rules from 15 February: for anyone over 16 years old, the vaccination certificate will only remain valid for four months after receiving the last dose. In practice, this means that only those who received their booster (or last dose) after 15 October will be allowed into the country. For children aged between 12 and 15, a recent negative PCR test is still sufficient.