More info needed on vaccines before planning can start, warns De Croo

More info needed on vaccines before planning can start, warns De Croo
© Belga

Belgium's vaccination strategy will be determined once we know more about the characteristics of the different vaccines that will be supplied, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on Thursday.

A strategy is being developed, he said, adding that the characteristics of the different vaccines that will be supplied to Belgium may differ from one to the another.

Up until now, several experts stated that among the first groups to be vaccinated would be the elderly, vulnerable people with an underlying condition and healthcare personnel.

However, a strategy for deciding which groups should be prioritised, who will vaccinate people, and how the whole logistical operation should proceed is not yet in place. Currently, a task force is "working on it," he said.

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On Tuesday, following the announcement that Pfizer's candidate Covid-19 was 90% effective, vaccinologist Pierre Van Damme stated that Belgium should start working on a plan for the fast and effective distribution of the vaccine once it is ready.

In the coming weeks, clinical studies will have to show which type of vaccine is most suitable for which population category, among other things. De Croo said he hopes that it will be possible to draw up a common strategy for the entire country, instead of different regional ones.

"We are asking the population to form a team, and to move together in the same direction," De Croo said. "I am starting from the principle that politicians must do the same in order to protect our citizens in the best way."

Belgium was part of the negotiations with several pharmaceutical companies conducted by the European Commission on behalf of the Member States, giving the country access to a wider range of vaccines than if it had to negotiate alone and stick to a single pharmaceutical company.

So far, Belgium is waiting for a total of 12.9 million doses of several Covid-19 vaccines: 7.7 million from AstraZeneca (administered in two doses) and 5.5 million from Johnson & Johnson.

Over the course of next week, Belgium has to decide whether or not it also wants to sign the contract for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Additionally, De Croo is "cautiously optimistic" about overcoming the health crisis, in light of the great strides in vaccine research and Belgium's decreasing figures.

The trends in the number of hospitalisations and infections are "encouraging" and show that a "turning point" has been reached, but the figures remain high, according to him. "However, we are closer to the start of the marathon than we are to the end."

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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