Different vaccines in Belgium: can you choose which one you want?

Different vaccines in Belgium: can you choose which one you want?
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As Belgium's vaccination campaign has officially started and an increasing number of vaccine doses are becoming available, many people are wondering which vaccine they will get.

Belgium has sped up its vaccination strategy due to the availability of a limited supply of the Moderna vaccine at the end of January and "bonus doses" that healthcare staff can take from the vials of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

However, the availability of several vaccines at the same time - such as Pfizer's and Moderna's - has so far not changed anything to the fact that people will not be able to choose which vaccine they want, Caroline Leys, spokesperson for Corona Commissioner Pedro Facon confirmed to The Brussels Times.

In early December - before any vaccines were available - vaccinologist Pierre Van Damme already said that people would not be able to choose their vaccine in the initial phase, as the first ones would immediately go to the priority groups.

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Now that several Covid-19 vaccines will be available at the same time in Belgium, experts will assess which vaccine is most appropriate for who, based on the efficacy in certain age and/or risk groups, for example - meaning that people will not have the choice.

These decisions will be made based on the characteristics of each vaccine and scientific information, the authorities stressed on the information website about the campaign, laatjevaccineren.be ("get vaccinated").

"The European approval, however, will guarantee that all vaccines are good ones," Van Damme said, referring to the recommendation for use by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which means that the vaccines can be considered "safe and sufficiently effective" to be used in a broad vaccination programme.

If all candidate vaccines that Belgium has subscribed to are given market authorisation, the country should receive over 22 million doses of vaccines.

Additionally, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke announced that the country wants an extra 10 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine, now that the EU has doubled its order.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is one of two currently approved for use in the EU, the other being the Moderna vaccine, which was approved on 6 January, after being recommended by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) earlier the same day.

The two vaccines could be joined at the end of January by the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. EMA expects an application for conditional marketing authorisation next week, according to EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke.

According to Belgium's sped-up vaccination strategy, at least 70% of the population should be vaccinated in September – the threshold that is considered the minimum for herd immunity.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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