Flanders to offer boosters to teenagers if no decision is made soon

Flanders to offer boosters to teenagers if no decision is made soon
Credit: Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga

Flanders' health minister has said the region will prepare to offer a booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine to teenagers if a country-wide agreement isn't made this evening.

The various health ministers have been discussing the matter for weeks, but have so far failed to come to a decision on whether to offer teenagers aged 12 to 17 in Belgium a booster vaccination dose. Flanders would like the Interministerial Conference (IMC) on Health to make a decision on the matter tonight.

"If we can, we will decide on the booster dose in that context. If it is not possible within the framework of the IMC, we will prepare to make a decision ourselves if necessary," Bart Croes, spokesperson for Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke, told The Brussels Times.

On Wednesday morning, the Interministerial Conference (IMC) on Health met digitally for over two hours but did not come to a decision due to opposition from Brussels and Wallonia.

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The decision has also been delayed due to the lack of advice on the matter from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). It could take until the end of February before its official advice is issued, and it may be limited to 16- and 17-year-olds.

Beke has repeatedly criticised EMA for this and has proposed to work with an ‘informed consent’ procedure for teenagers who want a booster in the meantime. Croes said an opinion has been requested from the Patients’ Rights Committee by Friday on such a procedure.

Teenagers looking for alternatives

The uncertainty about offering a booster vaccine to teenagers in Belgium is leading to “booster tourism,” which sees a number of young people crossing country borders to get vaccinated in Germany, or infecting themselves with the virus to get a recovery certificate for travel.

So far, Germany, France, Austria, Italy, the US and Israel have already decided to administer boosters to this age group without waiting for advice from EMA.

However, in the Netherlands, the Health Council announced on Friday that there is not enough scientific evidence to approve the booster shot for teenagers and that this would only lead to "very limited health gains' for this group, according to the council."

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