Adolescents aged 12 to 17 can now get a booster vaccine in Flanders without receiving an invitation after weeks of debate on a country-wide level.
Flanders’ health minister Wouter Beke said last week that the region would prepare to offer a booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine to teenagers if a country-wide agreement wasn't made during the Interministerial Conference (IMC) on Health. No agreement was come to on Friday, which is why Flanders is moving ahead alone.
"Last week, it was decided in Flanders that 12- to 17-year-olds can receive the booster dose of the vaccine if they have signed a consent document," Joris Moonens, spokesperson of the Agency for Care and Health, told The Brussels Times.
The vaccine is offered rather than recommended, meaning the procedure of the rollout differs from how the vaccination campaign has run so far. Most notably, no invitations will be sent by post, e-mail or e-box this time, parents have to contact their local vaccination centre to make an appointment.
It is up to the vaccination centres to organise the system for the booster dose administration. They will either open up a specific time for younger people to get vaccinated through walk-ins, or work with a registration system online. The adolescent must bring a signed consent form to get vaccinated, which can be found here.
Organisation within centres
All young people will be given the Pfizer vaccine. As with adults, the booster vaccination can be given four months after the second basic vaccination.
Moonens explained that the government has no concrete idea of how many vaccination centres in the region will be offering the dose, but said that a lot of centres will start from Wednesday.
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"It depends on the individual vaccination centres, some may only start administering the dose to adolescents tomorrow or the day after," Beke's spokesperson told The Brussels Times.
Moonens said people looking to vaccinate their children should regularly check the publication channels of their local vaccination centres or local authorities (Facebook or other social media pages, website) to find out how they should organise getting the dose.
The booster dose will only be offered to younger people in Flanders, as Brussels and Wallonia are waiting for the advice of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Superior Health Council before making a decision, which has so far been delayed.
"Our minister however judged that we should already start offering the booster dose to younger people and to give the choice to parents to allow their children to get a booster dose," Moonens said.
The uncertainty about offering a booster vaccine to teenagers in Belgium was leading to a number of young people crossing country borders to get vaccinated in Germany, or infecting themselves with the virus to get a recovery certificate for travel.
Moonens confirmed that the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) of adolescents who are given a booster dose will be updated as is the case for adults, as it completes their vaccination schedule.
Other European countries, including Germany, France, Austria, Italy, the US and Israel, already decided to administer boosters to this age group without waiting for advice from EMA.