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What Brussels is doing to increase its vaccination rate

Credit: ITMedicine

As part of its efforts to decentralise vaccination to increase the coverage rate, vaccination points will be set up at pharmacies and pupils can get vaccinated at Dutch-speaking schools in Brussels.

On Tuesday, the Brussels-Capital Region said it is aiming to achieve a vaccination coverage rate of 65% by the end of October to “ensure the fourth wave can stay at the same height of the third wave in spring.”

Currently, just 50.8% of the entire Brussels population has received the first dose of a Covid vaccine, meaning the figure has to be increased by at least 15%, equal to around 16,000 first shots, over the next two months.

“We are increasingly focusing on local actions, which started in April and which we will continue to deploy. We have set up various vaccination possibilities in communities,” Inge Neven, head of the Brussels Health Inspectorate, told The Brussels Times.

In terms of the Region’s approach to increase its vaccination rate, the efforts are multifaceted.

Pupils and parents

With the start of the school year approaching, the region’s Joint Community Commission (Cocom) has been preparing actions to vaccinate children in secondary schools from September, as just 11% of all adolescents aged 12 to 17 are currently fully vaccinated, while 22% has received one shot.

“The intention now is that we will work hard at the beginning of the school year to make sure that we can organise some kind of initiative in schools to get a higher vaccination rate,” Neven said, adding that preparations are already underway to implement initiatives in schools from 1 September.

Pupils aged over 12 at Brussels’ Dutch-speaking secondary schools, as well as their parents, will be able to get their coronavirus vaccines through the schools, it was announced on Friday. A similar initiative will be rolled out in French-speaking schools in the region.

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During the first weeks, the schools will focus on informing people and convincing them with practical arguments. Then, depending on the location of the school, staff will either accompany pupils and parents to a vaccination centre or a vaccination team will be deployed on-site.

There are around 15,330 pupils in the 40 Dutch-speaking secondary schools in the capital, according to Brussels’ minister for Dutch-speaking education Sven Gatz, who launched the initiative alongside the Flemish Community Commission (VGC) and Cocom.

“Via these Dutch-speaking schools in Brussels, we can make our contribution to sensitising parents and pupils with a view to having them vaccinated as well,” he said.

Pharmacies

In another bid to bring vaccination closer to the citizens, Cocom is launching a “Pharma-on-tour” project, which allows people to get vaccinated in pharmacies or at a vaccination point located in front of the pharmacy.

In a press release, Cocom highlighted that around 40% of the inhabitants of the Brussels Region do not have a regular family doctor, making sensitising people around vaccination difficult.

By working with pharmacists, which the organisation said have “a unique relationship with customers”, it hopes to respond to persistent questions and doubts about the efficacy and safety of coronavirus vaccines.

After being informed about the vaccines, patients will then be able to get vaccinated on location, solving the issue of the difficult step to get people to go to vaccination centres.

The project will shift across the Brussels Region, stopping off at pre-selected pharmacies in municipalities with a low vaccination rate.

Two pharmacies have already been selected to take part in the project: one in the Havenwijk (harbour district) in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean and one in the Colignon neighbourhood in Schaerbeek.

Shops

On Tuesday, Cocom also announced it will roll out vaccination initiatives in large chain stores in the region, including IKEA, Primark, Action and Carrefour throughout the whole of September.

Customers will be offered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one shot for full protection, while medical teams will be approaching people to give them more information on the coronavirus vaccines.

“We find that various target groups are not or hardly reached through the regular channels of the government or the media,” Dominique Michel, chief executive officer of Comeos trade federation, said.

“The fact is that we reach everyone because everyone goes shopping. And so Comeos selected four chains where many people come from the conscious target group,” he added.

Businesses

Finally, as more and more businesses are going back to the office part-time in Brussels, the strong recommendation for companies to encourage employees to work from home will not yet be lifted from 1 September.

Cocom is also working with companies located in Brussels. They have said they will contribute to raising the vaccination coverage rate by offering vaccination at the workplace or in the company, in the same way as certain businesses do so with the annual flu shot.

An appointment will be made for a vaccination session in the company if ten or more people sign up to be vaccinated.

The Cocom vaccination team will provide the vaccines and medical staff, and a doctor will be present to answer questions from people who still have doubts or concerns.

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