'We will give up our place': Belgians ask to prioritise young people for vaccines

'We will give up our place': Belgians ask to prioritise young people for vaccines
Credit: Nik Anderson (CC BY 2.0)

A group of about 40 adults from various sectors in Flanders are asking for young people between 16 and 25 years old to be considered an "essential" group, so they will be given priority in Belgium's vaccination campaign.

"We want to give up our place to the young people," Heidi De Pauw, CEO of Child Focus, and Sara Vercauteren, managing director of PR agency Bepublic, wrote in an open letter, that has been signed by about 40 "concerned adults" from various sectors, ranging from lawyers to festival organisers.

"We have been able to enjoy life a lot. When it comes to vaccinations or relaxing measures, 16 to 25-year-olds should be considered first. They must be recognised as an essential group," they wrote in the letter, published by Het Laatste Nieuws and De Morgen.

According to De Pauw, the coronavirus crisis hits young people especially hard, because they have to miss out on many things. Additionally, many are also without student jobs, which threatens to cause financial problems for some.

"We understand you, young people. And just as you give up your seat on the bus for the elderly, we are now prepared to give up our seat for you," she wrote in the letter.

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"Of course, the care providers, the people in residential care centres and people in essential professions come first. We do not want the death rate to go up," she said. "But after that, the young people should come."

However, if young people are given priority for vaccinations, that will also be good for society as a whole, according to De Pauw.

"They must be able to develop, for the future too," she explained on Flemish radio. "It's the young people who we need for the relaunch of our society. And so we must give them a sign that they are worth investing in."

She stressed that she does not want to start a "battle between generations" and that the choice to prioritise young people is not a choice against the older generations, but for the younger ones.

"We are not in a position in Belgium to give everyone a vaccine at the same time," she said. And if choices have to be made, we think young people deserve priority for once."

She said she realises that, once younger people are vaccinated, they still have to adhere to the measures, as it is still not clear whether the vaccine can stop infections.

"Our appeal is first and foremost symbolic," De Pauw said. "But we also hear that some countries would allow relaxations in summer for people who have been vaccinated, and some airlines would like to do the same. If that is the case, we can give young people priority so that they can take advantage of it more quickly."

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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