Vaccines: Focus on age, not health conditions, says Brussels health minister

Vaccines: Focus on age, not health conditions, says Brussels health minister
Credit: Belga

A review of the coronavirus vaccination strategy, which would see people being prioritised for receiving a shot based solely on their age, has been proposed by Brussels Health Minister Alain Maron in an open letter to fellow health ministers.

He urged them to consider abandoning the current system, which prioritises under 65s who have underlying disorders that put them at risk, and instead proposed sending invitations per age category, in a letter seen by L’Echo newspaper.

"The Superior Health Council has already pointed at age being the main 'driver' for severe complications and deaths as a result of being infected with Covid-19," Maron said in the letter.

He added that he proposed this move to avoid the legal difficulties that the selection of at-risk patients will pose, of which the elimination process may violate medical confidentiality.

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The patients most at risk, for example, dialysis patients or people undergoing transplantation, "could still be vaccinated more quickly in hospital or later at their GP with Johnson & Johnson's vaccine," which only requires one dose, once it has been approved.

Maron’s proposal followed reports that several problems have been encountered due to the complicated invitation system.

Many doctors and experts in Belgium have already called for a modification of the strategy to start vaccinating against Covid-19 per age group, rather than focussing on high-risk patients.

Last month, several Members of the Federal Parliament from N-VA supported this call, arguing that, in Brussels, one in three does not have a regular GP and less than 60% of patients have a Global Medical Record (GMD), which could impede efforts to identify high-risk patients.

“It seems a matter of common sense to abandon the discussion about prioritising high-risk patients and to vaccinate everyone as soon as possible, from old to young,” they said in an opinion piece published in Knack.

Lauren Walker

The Brussels Times

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