First dose by summer: Explaining Flanders' latest vaccine timeline

First dose by summer: Explaining Flanders' latest vaccine timeline
Credit: Belga

A new vaccination timeline per age group published by the Flemish Care and Health Agency will allow people living in Flanders to estimate when it is approximately their turn for a shot.

Flanders is still aiming to offer all its residents a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by 11 July, so that "every adult can go into the summer with peace of mind," tweeted Flemish Welfare Minister Wouter Beke on Wednesday, sharing an updated timeline allowing people to see more clearly when they can expect to get vaccinated.

The vaccination rollout is expected to get a boost in May, as almost 900,000 vaccines will be delivered to Belgium next week, and Flanders is planning up to 750,000 vaccinations per week from June.

Additionally, the Flemish authorities calculate that the majority of the general adult population can expect their first shot in the five weeks between the start of June and 11 July - starting with people aged 60 at the end of May, and ending with 18-years-olds in the week before 11 July.

However, this also means that for many people, their second shot will fall right in the middle of the summer, as the interval between the two shots is four weeks (Moderna), five weeks (Pfizer) or 12 weeks (AstraZeneca).

People who will be vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson do not have to take into account a second shot in their summer planning, as the vaccine only requires a single dose.

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In practice, however, this timeline can still change as it is "subject to the vaccine deliveries" and may vary a bit depending on each vaccination centre, the Agency stressed.

In the first three weeks of May, people with underlying conditions (in descending order of age from 65 to 18), pregnant women and priority groups such as police officers will get vaccinated, totalling about 835,000 people in Flanders.

However, it is impossible to say which vaccine people will receive in several weeks, meaning that planning possible summer holidays around vaccination appointments is not always easy, according to Beke.

"The greatest security for going on vacation is to get vaccinated first," he said in the Flemish parliament on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, the Care and Health Agency already urged people to prioritise their vaccinations, and make travel plans in the function of their appointments, instead of the other way around.

“If we want to vaccinate six million people in Flanders in a couple of weeks, we will have to ask everyone to organise themselves as much as possible and give the vaccination priority,” spokesperson Joris Moonens said, adding that vaccination centres “cannot offer a tailor-made deal for everyone.”

However, the Vaccination Taskforce is working on an opinion regarding the postponement of vaccination appointments, after which guidelines can be developed.

"We will look into what is possible, and whether there is any wiggle room [between shots]," epidemiologist Pierre Van Damme, a member of the Vaccination Taskforce, told VTM News. "If people have already planned a holiday and the second vaccination date is not convenient, they will have to look for a postponement."

According to him, such a postponement is possible, "but we cannot guarantee how good the protection will be at the end of the first dose, before the vaccination with a second dose takes place."

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