Brussels vaccination centre criticised for vaccinating non-priority patient
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Brussels vaccination centre criticised for vaccinating non-priority patient

Credit: Belga

Belgium’s largest vaccination centre, the Heysel centre in Brussels, has come under fire again after a man posted on Twitter about how he was vaccinated while accompanying his father to get a shot.

When Toon Vanagt (49) unexpectedly took his 77-year-old father to the vaccination centre at Heysel on Monday, he was asked at the check-in if he wanted to be vaccinated as well.

“I was told that people who are part of the bubble of the person they accompany to a vaccination centre are also entitled to a vaccination,” Vanagt said, adding that less than a minute later, he already received a text message to confirm his vaccine for that day.

“I’m still pinching myself, because I cannot believe that I am already protected,” he said, adding that he has no underlying conditions. “I was not expecting this at all.”

The post prompted criticism and questions from many who were wondering why Vanagt received priority over someone’s ageing mother, and others wondering if they would also get priority if they accompanied one of their parents.

Others underlined the unfair side of Vanagt’s early vaccination, wondering if “it is that easy to walk past everyone and take a dose intended for the target audience?”

A little later, however, it turned out that Vanagt should not have received the vaccine in the first place.

According to Sabine Stordeur, co-head of the Vaccination Taskforce, this is not an approach that was recommended by the taskforce at all.

“In my opinion, it is an initiative that is specific either to the centre or to the person who has taken in the elderly person,” she told La Libre. “I have no idea what instructions this person received.”

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According to the COO of Brussels Expo, Emin Luka, the people working in the centre were briefed that morning about the fact that people accompanying people with mobility problems could also be vaccinated.

“The rule only applies to so-called companions aged 60 or over,” Luka told RTBF. “Due to a communication error, the staff had initially understood this differently. But that has now been rectified.”

Stordeur, however, stated that taking such liberties can be dangerous. “Now, any elderly person is going to be accompanied by a younger person, thinking that they could potentially be vaccinated,” she said. “This is not at all the intention.”

Even though Stordeur said that this was the first time she heard about a companion being vaccinated because they were part of the same bubble, she pointed out that the idea of opening the Heysel centre more widely had been adopted – following several problems with the computer programme sending out invitations.

“However, this should always be done with respect for the target public, meaning the categories of people in phase 1A,” she added.

Additionally, the taskforce received many requests from priority patients or people who have a role as a close caregiver to get vaccinated early, which have been refused so as not to open up the prospect of early vaccination too broadly.

“This proposal is a little wild,” said Stordeur. “I am going to interview the organisers and planners of the Heysel centre, in order to stay within the lines of the vaccination strategy.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times