Belgium’s largest vaccination centre temporarily closed again
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Belgium’s largest vaccination centre temporarily closed again

Credit: Belga

The biggest coronavirus vaccination centre in Belgium, Heysel, did not open its doors on Monday after the delay in deliveries of AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines resulted in hundreds of appointments being cancelled.

AstraZeneca announced last week that it would only be able to deliver 500,000 coronavirus vaccines to Belgium, 200,000 fewer than promised, and Moderna said it would be delivering just 94,800 doses this week, leaving centres with reduced supply.

“When we learned of the late deliveries from AstraZeneca on Wednesday and Moderna on Friday, we had to cancel about a hundred appointments so as not to jeopardise our stock,” Inge Neven, head of the Brussels health inspectorate, told Bx1.

“To make sure all the vaccination centres can function this week, we decided not to open the Heysel centre today. For the rest of the week, its opening hours will also be reduced to guarantee supplies,” Neven added.

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She explained it is important to build up a two-week stock so more appointments don’t have to be cancelled, and added that no new invitations have been sent out since last Tuesday to continue building up this stock.

Last week, around 11,200 people received a vaccine at the Heysel and Pacheco centres, at the time the only two centres in the city.

The Joint Community Commission (Cocom) announced it would decrease this week’s number of available slots to 11,000 for the entire region, and would offer more starting from the next week when around 16,500 appointments will be made available.

The Heysel vaccination centre already once closed its doors in mid-February, just 24 hours after it first opened, after it experienced a technical error in the system which resulted in invited not being sent out.

Brighter future?

Four new coronavirus vaccination centres opened on Monday in Brussels, which could help to better serve the region’s population.

Although these centres have a capacity to inoculate 1,000 doses per day, they will only vaccinate 2,000 slots each this week, also as a result of the reduced availability of vaccines announced by AstraZeneca, said Neven.

Once deliveries stabilise, both the Pacheco and Heysel centres will be open five days a week with a night shift and two centres will also operate on Saturdays, and people in Brussels will still be allowed to choose where they get vaccinated.

Over 40 appointments were cancelled by people who did not want to be vaccinated with an AstraZeneca dose in light of its suspension in some countries amidst concerns about possible side effects.

As Belgium started vaccinating the general population from Monday, a system is being set up for people to register for accelerated vaccination in case of leftover doses in vaccination centres to ensure that not a single vaccination shot will be lost or thrown away.

Lauren Walker
The Brussels Times