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Investigation into mayor who jumped the vaccination queue

Mayor Veerle Heeren. © Sint-Truiden.be

The governor of Limburg province, Jos Lantmeeters, has opened an investigation into the case of Veerle Heeren (CD&V), mayor of Sint-Truiden, who was reported to have received a full vaccination back in March.

The case was brought to light by local journalist Dirk Selis, who runs a whistle-blowing news site. The information apparently came from a confidential source who worked in the vaccination centre.

Lantmeeters, meanwhile, is acting on orders from Bart Somers (Open VLD), Flemish minister for home affairs, who has ordered the region’s four other provincial governors to check to see if other local politicians have stepped out of line.

The complaint against Heeren is that she used her position to jump the queue to receive both a first vaccination on 10 March, and a second on 31 March.

Heeren is 56 years old. At the time she was fully vaccinated, the roll-out campaign was restricted to people aged over 85, the most vulnerable in the population. Even now, two months later, only 9% of people in Heeren’s age group have received two vaccination shots, and many of them suffer from co-morbidities.

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Heeren admits having been vaccinated and claims she was on duty at the vaccination centre when staff were trying to use up spare doses left behind when members of the public had failed to turn up. However, there are now allegations that members of her family were also vaccinated prematurely.

Lantmeeters has promised a full investigation and said he will not communicate further until his enquiry is complete. The city council has called an extraordinary meeting for Monday, but the governor refuses to regard that as a deadline.

I’m not going to let myself be rushed,” he told Belga. “We are not going to do a rush job just so we can have a decision on Monday. I am not guided by politics, but by the rights of whoever lodged the complaint and the person against whom it has been drawn up. Everyone is entitled to proper treatment.”

Elsewhere, the Flemish association of journalists has lodged an official complaint following a search warrant carried out during the week at the home of Selis, who received documents on the Heeren case from a source in the vaccination centre. Heeren herself has filed a legal complaint for breach of medical confidentiality against whoever leaked the documents.