Youth travel organisations have voiced disappointment about the further delay on whether teenagers will be administered booster doses. But they remain hopeful for the Carnival holidays at the end of the month.
For youth organisation Kazou, it is “getting very tight” to organise a ski holiday for the end of February now that there is still uncertainty whether young people can get a booster shot in time.
“We are still giving the Carnival holiday every chance but by postponing the decision, we cannot offer clarity to either the young people or our foreign partners.”
Meanwhile, travel agency Jongerentravel expressed frustration about the delay, especially now that Austria is welcoming tourists again.
“One group [of teenagers] was vaccinated too early, namely in the month of July,” Katrien Corens of the organisation said on Flemish radio on Wednesday. “They can still go to Austria, but they have to take a PCR test every two days.”
She argues that the lack of a clear decision is “punishing young people who did go and get their shots on time” and questioned why the booster dose couldn’t be offered on a voluntary basis, as in some other countries: “We do not understand why it cannot be done in Belgium.”
The lack of a uniform European approach is “very tiring and discouraging”, she said. “Now each country can decide to change the measures every day.”
Belgium’s health ministers have been waiting for an official recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) before making a decision. However, this could take until the end of February and may be limited to 16- and 17-year-olds.
The country’s health ministers were then expected to decide on the booster shot today but delayed their decision to ask for an additional legal opinion from the Patients’ Rights Committee on using the ‘informed consent’ procedure by Friday.
Once the committee has issued its advice, another Interministerial Conference (IMC) on Health should be organised to discuss it as soon as possible, according to the cabinet of Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke.
“If we then cannot come to a decision in that IMC, Flanders will decide on its own,” Beke’s spokesperson Bart Croes told The Brussels Times earlier on Wednesday.
France, Germany, Austria, Italy, the US and Israel have already decided to administer boosters to this age group.