Second booster shots could be available for everyone from September

Second booster shots could be available for everyone from September
Patient receiving coronavirus vaccine. Credit: Steven Cornfield at Unsplash

Belgium's health ministers are expected to make a decision regarding the expansion of the second Covid-19 booster shot vaccination campaign on Wednesday, which could see anyone over 18 being eligible for this dose from September.

Advice regarding this decision has been finalised both by the Superior Health Council and the Vaccination Taskforce and has been handed to the Interministerial Conference (IMC) on Health for deliberation on Wednesday, Gudrun Briat, spokesperson for the Taskforce, confirmed.

"The advice has now been handed over, and the ministers will decide tomorrow what will be done and how this will be carried out," she told The Brussels Times.

Although Briat could not comment on the advice given to health ministers, Belgium's Superior Health Council recommended that people at risk and healthcare staff should get priority before the general population, according to reports from Het Laatste Nieuws.

Importance of booster

Briat did say the advice from the Taskforce stressed the importance of people with a weaker immune system and older than 75 getting a first booster dose, as Belgium is facing a seventh wave. "This is something we really push for in our advice," she said.

In addition, the Health Council recommended that people at risk should be given the extra booster at the end of September at the latest to allow for an interval of at least three and preferably six months between vaccines, just as for the first booster.

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Of all people aged over 80 in Flanders who received an invitation for their second Covid-19 booster shot, including those living at home and residents of care homes, around half have accepted it, while in Brussels, less than 3% accepted it, resulting in the country's various health ministers calling on people to receive additional protection.

New variants

Vaccine effectiveness has taken a hit as the Covid-19 virus has evolved, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Friday, adding that vaccines tweaked to include the latest Omicron variant could improve protection.

It is unclear whether the vaccines adapted to the Omicron variant will be ready for the second booster campaign, as the vaccines need to be approved by the EMA first.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have tweaked their vaccines to include the Omicron strain. Vaccines that include strains of other variants, such as the Beta variant, may be considered boosters depending on clinical trials.

The new BA.4 and BA.5 strains of Omicron are currently causing a spike in new infections around the world.

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