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Belgium updates vaccination strategy due to AstraZeneca

Credit: Belga

As the AstraZeneca vaccine will not be administered to people over 55 years old for the time being, Belgium has slightly adapted its vaccination strategy.

Following its approval by the EU, the first shipment of 443,000 AstraZeneca vaccines has been delivered, and will be used from mid-February, the Vaccination Taskforcec announced in a press release.

As advised by the taskforce, Belgium will start administering it to as many people as possible – all only between 18 and 55 years old – of the following groups:

Healthcare workers – an estimated 200,000 people. “This is the group that would be getting a vaccine anyway,” the taskforce said.

– Residents and staff in other collective care institutions, such as rehabilitation centres, psychiatric institutions, and staff in residential institutions for the protection of children and young people.

High-risk groups with underlying conditions, as advised by the Superior Health Council, in an order of decreasing age. An exception is made for people with immune disorders or who are treated with immunosuppressants, however, as they will be vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, just like the high-risk patients older than 55.

Police officers who work in the field and regularly come into contact with the public (intervention units).

People over 55, as well as people with an immune disorder and those who are being treated with medicines that suppress the immune system, will receive a Covid-19 vaccine by Pfizer/BioNtech or Moderna.

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“Through this approach, these groups will be vaccinated more quickly and will therefore run a significantly lower risk of Covid-19 disease and illness,” the taskforce said in a press release.

Additionally, elderly people living at home will be vaccinated earlier than expected, because more Pfizer vaccines will become available for them as a result of this adjustment. “All this contributes to herd immunity, and thus to the protection of the (as yet) unvaccinated.”

It also means that as many Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as possible will be kept available for the elderly population, for whom it has been proven that they offer high efficacy.

“The AstraZeneca vaccine will ensure that we can accelerate the deployment of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine in the group where Covid-19 has the greatest impact,” vaccinologist Pierre Van Damme said.

A total of 443,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are expected to be delivered this month, which is fewer than hoped for due to the delivery issues at EU levels. The volume and planning of subsequent deliveries are not yet known.

“However, we can already give a significant number of people their first dose,” said Dirk Ramaekers, the head of the task force. The healthcare providers and high-risk groups together already make up a group estimated at 700,000 to 1.2 million people.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times