Superior Health Council stands by advice on vaccines for former Covid patients
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Superior Health Council stands by advice on vaccines for former Covid patients

© Belga

The Superior Health Council has reaffirmed its advice that people who have previously been infected by the coronavirus should still receive two doses of the vaccines against the virus.

The Council, part of the federal public health ministry, is an expert body with its own staff and a network of outside experts, whose role is to offer advice to policy-makers and health workers.

The question of a single vaccination with the two main vaccines — AstraZeneca and Pfizer – arose after the EU stopped ordering vaccines from AstraZeneca. That meant people who had received a first dose and would require a second might find stocks running out.

The option of substituting the second dose of AstraZeneca with a dose of Pfizer is still being studied, but initial research looks promising.

In addition, giving just one dose to those previously infected would speed up the vaccine roll-out in general, but allowing those people to be considered fully vaccinated.

The reasoning behind the issue is that someone who has contracted a disease and survived then has antibodies against the organism that caused it – in this case the virus SARS-CoV-2. Since a vaccine works the same way, by provoking the creation of antibodies, one dose might be enough simply to top up the body’s natural defences.

Back in February, the French equivalent of the Council decided one dose was sufficient. Belgium looked into the matter shortly after, but decided to stick with two. Now the Council has looked at the question again, and its opinion remains unchanged.

Explaining its decision, the Council said the data were not sufficiently extended over time, since the appearance of the vaccines is relatively recent. The data were also not taken from the more vulnerable groups.

Finally, there is as yet only sufficient data on the effects in cases concerning the British/Kent variant and the South African variant, and not on the Brazil or India variants – the latter being the most worrying variant so far.

The Council did, however, leave the door open for people with one dose and a previous infection to be considered immune for the purposes of travel this summer. The way that could be implemented, it said, is a matter for the Vaccination Taskforce to work out.