Brussels hoped-for 65% vaccination rate ‘hard to reach’ by end of October
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Brussels hoped-for 65% vaccination rate ‘hard to reach’ by end of October

The now-closed Heysel vaccination centre. Credit: Belga

It will be “hard to reach” the goal of giving 65% of all people living in the Brussels-Capital Region a first vaccination dose by the end of October, says the head of the Brussels health inspectorate Inge Neven.

While the health authorities did manage to administer 10,000 first doses this week, its target of administering 16,000 shots a week, and giving 65% of the Brussels population a first shot by the end of next month is still a long way off, Neven said during a press briefing on Tuesday.

“We can see that finding new people is a very complex business, but we can be positive with those 10,000 a week,” she said.

Those doses administered last week are mainly due to the local vaccination initiatives, and particularly the ‘Vacci-bus’ in Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, which vaccinated 600 people in just four days in the middle of September, says Neven.

“A number of municipalities have made good progress. Saint-Josse gained 1.5% last week,” she said. “The bus works very well there, that has to do with outreach and sensitisation. Mayor Emir Kir is at the bus almost every day and that creates a good dynamic.”

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However, Brussels is having a lot of difficulties convincing young people to get vaccinated, according to Neven. “We still see a large margin for improvement there.”

Compared to last week, Brussels vaccination rate has risen slightly: 54% of all residents in the Capital-Region have now received their first shot, compared to 53% last week.

Among 12-17-year-olds, 33% of Brussels residents have received their first vaccination, in the category of 18-24-year-olds, this is 47%, and for 25-34-year-olds, the number rises to 58%, according to the latest figures by the Sciensano national health institute.

In Flanders, these figures are a lot higher, with a vaccination coverage rate of 84%, 86% and 86% in these age categories, respectively.

“The numbers remain low, but week after week we continue to see progress thanks to all the actions we are taking with our partners,” Neven said. “We are also seeing progress among young people and we are convinced that we will continue to see this progress in the coming weeks.”

For example, vaccination coverage among 12- to 17-year-olds has increased by almost 8% in three weeks. In the other age categories under 34, a gain of about 4-5% was recorded in the same period.

‘The only way out’

In the meantime, the coronavirus figures continue to fall slightly in the Capital Region – which is one of the three remaining ‘dark red’ zones on the ECDC’s Covid travel map – with an incidence of 509 infections per 100,000 inhabitants this week compared to 540 last week, but infections are occurring mainly among young people.

“We mainly see infections among school-going youth, which is reflected in several classes and schools that have to be closed,” said Neven. “We see the same trends as last year. Vaccination is the only way out.”

When at the end of the summer holidays, the authorities announced their aim to reach a 65% vaccination rate by the end of October, they also set up a number of local initiatives to make that happen, including 40 mobile vaccination teams in schools, businesses and shops.

Last weekend, however, the action to vaccinate people in large shops – such as IKEA, Primark and Carrefour – was ended, as fewer people showed up every day, and the shops needed to free up space.

“We are now going to check with (commerce and services federation) Comeos to see if there are other districts with great vaccination potential where we can vaccinate in large retail areas,” said Neven, adding that a total of 2,100 people were vaccinated in shops this month.

Additionally, the Brussels business association Beci is also calling for staff to be vaccinated on the work floor.

“There are large companies where the campaign has started, but it is not yet a success,” Neven said. “The vaccination figures are low there. We have to see how we can improve that, these are things that you have to give time.”

In the meantime, four regional vaccination centres (Pacheco, Molenbeek, Forest, Woluwe-Saint-Pierre) are still open, but the number of smaller initiatives continues to grow.

An overview of all the places where people can get a vaccine without an appointment can be found here.

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