Belgium decided that the standard interval between two Pfizer injections will be extended to 35 days (five weeks), during the Interministerial Health Conference on Wednesday.
The decision to postpone the second shot means that the country's vaccination campaign will be sped up, according to a press release by the Vaccination Taskforce.
Until now, a second shot was always held back for each Pfizer vaccine that was administered, to ensure that those who received the first shot could get their second vaccination in time, even if there are supply problems.
According to Dirk Ramaekers, head of the Vaccination Task Force, the decision means that "we can accelerate the deployment of 200,000 extra doses."
- Over 1 million vaccines administered in Belgium so far
- Over-65s in Flanders will get first vaccination in April thanks to boosted campaign
- EU will receive 4 million extra Pfizer vaccines by end of March
"Those who were already scheduled to come back after 21 days will not be rescheduled," he said in a press release. "But from next week, they will start with those 35 days."
This decision follows a recommendation from the Superior Health Council published in early March. Now, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the FAMHP have confirmed that this extension of the interval period does not pose any legal problems, reports RTBF.
During the press conference following the Consultative Committee last Friday, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke had already stated that such an extension could constitute a "possibility of further acceleration" of the country's campaign vaccination, but the concrete impact is still being calculated.
Additionally, Belgium is expected to receive about 100,000 Pfizer vaccines from the 4 million extra doses that the company will deliver to the European Union by the end of March, as was announced by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The ministers also reaffirmed the order of the vaccination campaign, with at-risk patients being vaccinated after the over-65s, despite criticism of this decision by GPs who fear for the administrative burden and the privacy of the patients.
The Vaccination taskforce stated that every effort is currently being made to make this phase operational from 2 April.
"The agreements with the health insurance funds have been made, the software packages of the general practitioners are ready, and the technical and legal aspects are being finalised," the taskforce said.
Update: The cabinet of Flemish Welfare Minister Wouter Beke calculated that the boost means that all over-65s will get their first shot before the end of April. The latest information can be found here.
The Brussels Times