While all invitations for the entire adult population in Wallonia to get their vaccination against the coronavirus were sent out today, the vaccination rollout in Flanders is seemingly going a bit slower.
Across all of Belgium, 56,3% of the adult population has already received its first shot, but there are large differences between Regions and even municipalities.
“Normally, everyone who wants to will be vaccinated in early July in Wallonia,” microbiologist and Sciensano’s French-speaking former Covid-19 spokesperson Emmanuel André said on Flemish radio on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Flanders will not make its initial aim of giving all residents who want to a first shot by 11 July, Flemish Welfare Minister Wouter Beke said recently.
The difference between the different speeds in Wallonia and Flanders is due to several reasons, but the main one is Flemish people’s willingness to be vaccinated. “We see that the vaccination rate is higher in Flanders. The consequence is that there are already more vaccines available for the younger ages [in Wallonia] now,” André said.
As of Wednesday 9 June, 57% of the adult population in Flanders has been vaccinated, compared to 58% in Wallonia, according to Sciensano’s latest available figures.
However, the vaccination rate per age group is lower in Wallonia than in Flanders, as about 94% of Flemish over-65s received their first shot, compared to roughly 83% in Wallonia, indicating a lower willingness to get vaccinated in the southern part of Belgium.
In order to encourage as many people as possible to get vaccinated, many initiatives have been set up in the Francophone part of the country, according to André.
“One of them is ‘revax,’ which gives people a second chance to get vaccinated,” he said. “We see that many people are now willing to be vaccinated after all, when they see that colleagues or friends are getting their vaccine.”
“Such a second moment, a second chance, gives us more flexibility,” André added.
In Flanders, there is no plan to invite people again if they refused to be vaccinated the first time, Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon stated in parliament on Tuesday.
“Those who have refused the vaccine will have to take the first step to get a second chance themselves,” he said, adding that they would not be “actively approached” by the authorities.
Besides giving people a second chance, Wallonia is also undertaking more targeted actions, such as days when people can get a shot without an appointment, or a marathon vaccination session for amateur athletes.
This way, André and other Walloon experts hope that the overall vaccination rate will be high enough to achieve herd immunity in Belgium.
“We hope to get closer week by week,” he said. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but we are moving in the right direction.”