AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine can be administered to everyone over the age of 18, including over 55s, in Belgium, according to the latest advice of the Superior Health Council.
Based on the latest data and the recommendations of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the Superior Health Council confirmed that the previous age limit of 55 years old can be lifted.
"AstraZeneca can be used for people aged 18 years and over, without an upper age limit," said vaccinologist Pierre Van Damme during a press conference on Tuesday.
The Council refers to British studies that show, among other things, that the AstraZeneca vaccine significantly reduces the risk of hospital admissions even for over-70s and even over-80s.
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Van Damme stressed that the previous advice only recommended the vaccine's use for people between 18 and 55, because there was insufficient data on the effect on the elderly.
Additionally, there is no scientific basis to support that only one dose of the vaccine is sufficient. "This is based on the data we have now," Van Damme said.
Lastly, the Council also recommended allowing more time between the first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
"We are of the opinion that the administration of the second dose should be done as close to day 21 as possible," Van Damme said. "It is true that the most recent data indicate that one can wait until day 42, but the Council recommends that the vaccine should be administered at the latest on day 35, as a precautionary measure."
The new advice could accelerate Belgium's vaccination strategy, if the country's health ministers decide to adopt it during a meeting on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.
If the advice is approved, the Vaccination Task Force can redesign the campaign. Last Sunday, Federal Minister of Public Health Frank Vandenbroucke already said it would be a "game-changer" if AstraZeneca would be allowed to be administered to the elderly.
The Brussels Times