Brussels should “make life as difficult as possible” for people who do not want to be vaccinated against the coronavirus to convince them to get the jab, according to Marc Noppen, CEO of the Brussels University Hospital (UZ Brussel).
In Flanders and Wallonia, 91% and 79% of the adult population has received its first dose, respectively, but the vaccination rate in the Brussels-Capital Region continues to lag behind, at just 63%.
“This is a typical metropolitan phenomenon which is being observed in other large cities as well,” he told La Dernière Heure, adding that Brussels’ figures are comparable to those in London.
Part of this has to do with the fact that some communities follow the national media less and are not as easily reachable through the regular channels, according to Noppen.
“We have great difficulty in reaching this population. They get their information from the internet or Whatsapp groups,” he said.
To convince the sceptics, “we have to go to these groups ourselves. That is how we can convince those who cannot be convinced,” Noppen said. “And, we have to make life as difficult as possible for the non-vaccinated.”
However, in Antwerp – which is also among Belgium’s largest cities – there are no such issues with vaccine uptake, but Noppen stressed that this is not a fair comparison.
“Brussels has 185 nationalities and 70 languages, Brussels is the only international city in Belgium,” Noppen said. “However, it is true that we have waited too long to reach out to citizens.”
Additionally, he endorses going to the communities themselves instead of expecting them to come to the big vaccination centres.
The Brussels health authorities have been making a number of efforts to reach as many people as possible, using all kinds of social media, posters and other campaigns in the municipalities.
Furthermore, Vacci-buses are also deployed throughout the city to reach the most precarious neighbourhoods with low vaccination rates, as well as at events, where people can just drop in to get vaccinated with a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.