UZ Brussel, the university medical hospital in Brussels, has received 100 doses of the monkeypox vaccine. However, internal head Sabine Allard fears they will not be able to slow down the circulation of the virus with this. “It’s too little, too late,” queer activist Tim Devriese told Bruzz.
“Choosing is always losing,” Dr Allard said, referring to the fact that only a limited group of people is eligible for the vaccination, including sex workers of all genders, immunocompromised patients and HIV patients who have contracted at least two sexually transmitted infections in the past year.
A rough estimate of 800 vaccines have been provided for that group throughout the country, the FPS Public Health stated.
Devriese deems the policy insufficient. “While monkeypox has hit the gay community disproportionately, the government is doing very little to contain the panic,” he said. “They’re not taking it seriously.”
This week, the first woman became infected with monkeypox in Belgium, as the epidemic has mainly been concentrated among men who have sex with men. The virus is spread through close physical contact.
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- Monkeypox: Confirmed cases stand at 546 in Belgium
Meanwhile, 12 HIV reference centres across the country are allowed to provide preventive vaccinations against monkeypox, four of which in Brussels: UZ Brussel, the Erasmus Hospital, Saint Pierre Hospital and UZ Saint-Luc.
Until now, 300 to 400 vaccines have been administered in Belgium, according to Health Minister Vandenbroucke. “We don’t expect it to be easy, certainly not for the sex workers group, but we hope to have made significant progress in this very precise target group by the end of next week,” he said.
Some 500 vaccines have been reserved for people who had high-risk contact with an infected person and medical staff who come into direct contact with the virus may also receive a preventative shot.
For now, everyone will only receive one vaccine dose. A second dose will follow in the autumn. Those who have been vaccinated against smallpox or have had the smallpox virus in the past are not eligible.