Doctors ask Belgium to skip vaccination phase for high-risk patients

Doctors ask Belgium to skip vaccination phase for high-risk patients
Credit: Belga

The Belgian Association of Physicians' Syndicates (BVAS) is calling on the country's governments to immediately vaccinate the population by age group, instead of giving priority to people with underlying conditions.

Vaccinating high-risk groups first is "a good idea in theory," according to the doctors, "but in practice, it will lead to so many problems that it will have more harmful than beneficial consequences."

On Wednesday, Belgium’s federal and regional governments agreed on a fixed list of which conditions qualify for a priority Covid-19 vaccination, once the residential care centres, healthcare workers and over 65s have received their shots.

However, many high-risk patients will be forgotten by using this system, according to BVAS.

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If a list of patients who qualify as high-risk patients would be drawn up based on prescribed medication, obese patients will be excluded, for example.

Should the list be made based on diagnoses found in the electronic medical files of general practitioners, many people will also be excluded. "About 50% of Brussels residents do not even have an electronic medical record," they stressed.

The only way to make sure that nobody will be forgotten is by developing a computer programme, but there is no time for that, BVAS said. They also caution against drawing up lists of patients' details and conditions for privacy reasons.

Additionally, there is no higher factor for death than the risk associated with age, according to BVAS. "Vaccinating people by age group - from old to young - is already vaccinating against the greatest risk of severe Covid-19."

The government is risking a delay in the whole vaccination plan by first looking to create a system that makes it possible to send individual invitations to the 1.3 million Belgians under 65 years old who have underlying conditions, according to an estimation by the Superior Health Council.

"There is an urgent need to vaccinate the population, not to think about how to make the vaccination campaign even more complex," they stressed.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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