‘Takes too long’: Belgian mayor threatens to buy vaccines himself
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‘Takes too long’: Belgian mayor threatens to buy vaccines himself

Credit: Belga

The mayor of Aalter, former Interior Minister Pieter De Crem, is threatening to buy Covid-19 vaccines for the people living in his municipality himself, as he believes Belgium’s vaccination is going too slowly.

A sports hall in Aalter – a town in the province of East Flanders – has been turned into a vaccination centre, the doctors, nurses and volunteers are ready to start the rollout, but there are no vaccines available, according to De Crem.

On Monday evening during the municipal council meeting, however, he announced that he would look for vaccines himself, if necessary.

“It takes too long before those vaccines are available,” De Crem said during the meeting, reports Het Nieuwsblad. “If we do not have sight of large quantities of vaccines within an acceptable period of time, then we will look at where we can buy vaccines ourselves as a local authority.”

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“We know how the world works. We have enough contacts. And we are not the only local authority considering such a solution,” he added.

However, it seems unlikely that De Crem would be able to obtain vaccines more quickly than the rest of the country.

Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon also tried to obtain vaccines himself, with Pfizer “and another supplier,” he said in the Flemish Parliament at the beginning of this year. However, he said that he was unsuccessful, adding that “for the time being, that door is closed.”

Additionally, Belgium has signed up for the EU purchasing procedures, in which the EU negotiates contracts with companies, and distributes the vaccines pro-rata among the Member States.

While it could be a possibility that De Crem is considering buying vaccines from Russia or China, those vaccines have not (yet) been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

On top of that, if Russia’s Covid-19 Sputnik V vaccine receives EMA’s approval, the vaccine is not expected to be ready for shipment to the European Union any time before May or June, according to the latest reports.

According to the opposition in Aalter, De Crem’s statements are nothing more “muscle-flexing,” as well as “a form of disinformation,” according to Groen councillor Mieke Schauvliege.

“This is unworthy of a mayor and former federal minister,” she said on Twitter. “As if De Drem would have any impact on the purchase of vaccines. Who believes this man?”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times