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Vaccination rates for healthcare workers still unknown

Credit: Belga

As Belgium works to vaccinate at least 90 percent of healthcare workers, the country faces a major hurdle: figures regarding vaccination rates by healthcare institutions aren’t public, nor are they easy to obtain.

Minister of Public Health Frank Vandenbroucke (Vooruit) said he wanted vaccination figures from healthcare institutions to be made public by mid-August, the idea being that if patients could see that a facility had a low vaccination rate, they would go elsewhere, putting pressure on the institutions to vaccinate their staff.

But as mid-August approaches, Vandenbroucke’s deadline for making the vaccination figures of healthcare institutions public seems unlikely to be met.

“Unfortunately, we don’t know the exact vaccination figures per care institution,” Karine Moykens, chair of the Flemish Care Task Force that studies coronavirus policy in nursing homes, told De Standaard.

“We do know the figures for the residents, but the problem is that the care providers did not necessarily get vaccinated via the vaccination campaign in the residential care homes.”

Hospitals face a similar problem, the outlet reports.

“Staffing levels are constantly changing,” said Lieve Dhaene of Zorgnet-Icuro, the largest umbrella organisation for healthcare institutions.

And while some have proposed that institutions simply ask their staff if they’ve been vaccinated, that would be against the law.

“An employer is not allowed to ask about the vaccination status of his personnel,” explained Zorgnet-Icuro.

Vandenbroucke isn’t giving up all hope yet, however.

“We are investigating different ways to obtain all data in a legally correct way,” he said. “That is going well. We are optimistic that it will work.”

If not, Belgium could require healthcare providers to be vaccinated, though setting up the legislative framework for doing so would take at least a few months.

Several countries, including France and Italy, have already required healthcare workers to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, which has opened up the debate in Belgium on whether it should become mandatory here.

Around three-quarters of vaccinated people in Belgium (75%) are in favour of compulsory vaccination for healthcare workers, however, that support is significantly lower among those who work in the sector and oppose vaccination.

The Interministerial Conference on Public Health has approved an action plan to increase the vaccination rate among healthcare personnel, which includes the possibility of mandatory vaccination, but Belgium’s Health Ministers hope that it will not come to that, according to VRT News. 

The Brussels Times

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