In Flanders, not only all over-18s, but also teenagers aged 16 and 17 should get their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by 11 July, according to Flemish Welfare Minister Wouter Beke.
The Superior Health Council is preparing an opinion about the vaccination of 16- and 17-years-olds for the authorities, and “if deliveries continue to go well, it looks like we will succeed,” Beke said on VTM News on Sunday.
He said that he wants the vaccination campaign to be completed by mid-August, meaning that all adults in Flanders should have received their second dose by then.
Midden augustus willen we elke Vlaming die ouder is dan 18 jaar twee keer gevaccineerd hebben. Ik wil werkelijk iedereen op het terrein bedanken die zich inzet om van de Vlaamse vaccinatiecampagne een succes te maken. @JanJambon @VTMNIEUWS #SamenZomeren
— Wouter Beke (@wbeke) May 16, 2021
To speed up the process, Belgium’s health ministers decided last week to shorten the interval between two doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine from 12 to eight weeks.
The Vaccination Taskforce called the target date of mid-August “achievable” if the deliveries happen according to plan, and also said that, logistically, it is not a difficult task to include 16 and 17-year-olds in the campaign, as at most two to three days have to be added to the schedule
Additionally, Beke hopes that the “corona pass” will be operational by early June, and said that one shot will be enough to get it. “One dose already offers protection not to have severe symptoms and that is the intention anyway,” he said.
However, several experts, including infectious diseases professor and member of the GEMS expert group Steven Callens, already stressed that the vaccines are only fully effective after the second shot.
“We do not have to take that first shot into account too much [when planning relaxations],” he said last week. “It will take at least until the end of August before everyone is sufficiently protected.”
Virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht, too, previously stressed that people are only sufficiently protected after they have been fully vaccinated.
“With the second shot, the protection gets a lot better,” he said, adding that this means that mid-August seems too early for relaxations such as large festivals, as the second vaccination for the average twenty-something will probably only happen around that time.
“There are indeed a lot of nice prospects, but we advocate keeping everything small-scale this summer,” Van Gucht said. “More will be possible later in the year, but the summer will remain a transition period.”
According to the latest figures by the Sciensano national health institute, 42,3% of the adult population in Belgium has already received its first shot, and 14,6% of adults in the country have been fully vaccinated.