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Flanders ahead of schedule in Covid-19 vaccination rollout

Credit: Belga

Flanders is ahead of schedule in its Covid-19 vaccination campaign, despite some difficulties with deliveries, announced Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon during a press conference on Friday.

“Today, we can say that Flanders is on schedule for its campaign. More than that: we are ahead of schedule,” he said, immediately adding that there are several factors that the government has no control over, such as the speed at which producers “can and want to deliver.”

In its initial plan, Flanders announced that it wanted to administer a first vaccination dose to everyone who wanted one in all Flemish residential care centres in January.

“We are at the end of the month now, and all the residential care centres have been vaccinated, except for about 20 that unfortunately have had, or are currently having, a Covid-19 outbreak,” Jambon said.

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Additionally, not only the residents have received their first injections, but staff members have been vaccinated too – something that was initially only planned for February.

“In the meantime, in some of our hospitals, a number of staff members in the emergency and intensive care units have also received their first shots,” Jambon said, adding that this is earlier than planned as well.

Currently, the vaccination count for the whole of Flanders is over 163,000. “That is the number of people who have received the first shot,” he said. “And a good 3,000 people have already received two shots.”

“As you know, there is quite a lot of nervousness because producers often change their delivery schedules last-minute,” said Jambon. “That is very annoying, but I would also like to call for calm and for us not to be rushed by doomsday reports.”

Flanders has a sufficient vaccine supply until mid-February, according to him. “From then on, we are dependent on what the producers will actually and concretely deliver, but that is unavoidable.”

From the end of February, Flanders will partly be relying on the AstraZeneca vaccine, whose deliveries are now the subject of discussion between the company and the EU.

“Additionally, we will only know later today if the vaccine is approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and under what conditions,” Jambon said, adding that if it is found to be unfit for people over 65, Flanders will have to adjust its planning.

“We have learned that we have to speak carefully, but if we do not have too many setbacks with delayed deliveries, we will be able to start vaccinating the general population in March,” he said.

“If deliveries come as promised, and if there are no unforeseen and unexpected obstacles, hopefully the summer will smile upon us,” Jambon said. “Then, we will be able to resume our free way of living and living together. Even if it will probably not be quite like before.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times