Up to half of young people do not show up for Covid vaccine in Flanders
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Up to half of young people do not show up for Covid vaccine in Flanders

Credit: Belga

Up to half of the young people who are invited for a coronavirus vaccine in Flanders do not show up, according to various vaccination centres in the region.

Currently, many young people and teenagers are getting their vaccine invites, but about half of them – both those who confirmed their time slot and those who did not – are not showing up.

“We also notice that young people are slow to react, or sometimes do not react at all,” Chris Van Tongelen of the vaccination centre in Putte told Het Nieuwsblad.

Much of this is due to the fact that many of them are away for almost the entire holiday, according to him. “With their mum and/or dad, then youth camps. It is actually pure madness that they are often unable to come.”

“It is not that they do not want to. In general, we are doing well,” Van Tongelen said. “The adults are 94% vaccinated. Below that, we are at 80%. Next week we start with the 12-year olds. So we are still at full speed.”

One of the issues is that the government often does not have the phone numbers of minors, meaning the invitation is sent out by post, according to him.

“Bpost is a disaster. They guaranteed delivery after two, three days, but it sometimes takes 12. Sometimes when it’s already too late, even,” Van Tongelen said. “However, everyone gets a second chance to get vaccinated. We are working on those for the adults now. For the youths, it is going to happen too.”

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In the Noorderkempen vaccination centre (Brasschaat, Essen, Kalmthout Kapellen and Wuustwezel), manager Cindy Verhoeven sees the same trend.

“Under 25s are indeed more challenging. They are more nonchalant with the agenda. Here, it is not the case that half of them do not show up, but it’s still a lot,” she said.

However, it happens the other way around as well, as young people also show up to their appointment without having confirmed first, despite a clear request in the letter.

“For our planning, it is useful to know who is or is not coming. Someone who cancels makes room for someone else,” Verhoeven added.

For the even younger teens, aged 12 to 15, who are now also getting vaccinated, she is seeing the numbers going up again. “Their agenda is managed by their parents, and that helps.”

Many centres point out that parents can see on MyHealthViewer whether their (underage) child has been invited, but they also told the Flemish Agency for Care and Health that notifications via text messages or email to the parents would be useful.

Despite the large number of people not showing up, however, the centres are not reporting any lost vaccine doses for the time being.

“We did set up a new reserve system, a last-minute call list,” Verhoeven said, adding that the federal QVax system is often too inaccurate, or people miss a text message.

“Through this list, residents can sign up every morning,” she added. “Just turning up without an invitation? We do not allow that.”

In the Kempen region, the situation seems to be better, but partly because many people are currently getting their second dose.

“Young people are not necessarily coming less,” said Filip Borgs (centre Kasterlee, Lille and Olen). “I think we have about ten people who do not turn up on a day, out of some 1,000 shots per day.”

All over-12s in the region were invited over the course of last week, and will be getting their shots in about two weeks, when the others have received their second doses.

“It is true that it does take a little longer to book appointments, but there are indeed fewer mobile phone and e-mail addresses available for the younger ones.”