'Final sprint to the finish': Flemish vaccination campaign coming to an end

'Final sprint to the finish': Flemish vaccination campaign coming to an end
Credit: Belga

With more than 9 in 10 adults in Flanders have been vaccinated against the coronavirus at least once, the region's vaccination campaign is now in its "final sprint to the finish," according to the Care and Health Agency.

Many adults will be having their second shot in the coming weeks, and the teenagers are also getting vaccinated en masse, Ria Vandenreyt of the Agency said on Flemish radio on Wednesday.

"We now have three major pillars that we are still working on: the continuation of the vaccination of 12-15 year-olds, extra calls for people who have not yet had their first shot, and people who have missed the second dose," she said.

"These groups are always getting smaller, but every percentage counts," Vandenreyt said. "We are now in the final sprint the to finish line."

While the figure of 70% of the entire population was initially touted as the threshold for herd immunity, experts have since stated that although there is "no magic number," vaccinating 80% to 90% of the population is probably better.

However, Vandenreyt stated that the Care and Health Agency is not aiming to reach a certain percentage, but just wants "to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible."

"That remains our biggest chance of preventing infections from spreading further, so we are just going for as much as possible," she added.

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As of Wednesday 11 August, 68% of the entire Flemish population (including under-18s) has been fully vaccinated, but the aim is to increase that figure as much as possible.

"We are making every effort to achieve this," Vandereyt said, adding that a number of actions to bring that figure higher have been planned.

Vaccinating 100% of the population, however, is not possible, as those under 12 years old are not vaccinated, and some adults - even though it is a small group - cannot get the jab because of medical reasons.

"So you will never achieve 100%, but we can strive to vaccinate as many people as possible among those who can be vaccinated," added Vandenreyt.

Additionally, the Agency is still "putting a lot of effort into" trying to convince people with doubts to get vaccinated, she explained.

"Population managers are working in the vaccination centres, and their task is to see which groups in their centre are less vaccinated," Vandenreyt explained. "They then undertake specific actions for those groups, such as working with GPs, street workers, and certain people from the community."

"We definitely want to reach those last groups as well," she stressed.

On top of those who do not want to be vaccinated, there is also a relatively small group of people that came to get their first shot, but did not return for the second dose.

"We have just opened up the system so people who have missed their second shot due to a holiday, for example, can make a new appointment themselves," Vandenreyt said. More information on this can be found here.

While most vaccination centres will remain open until mid-October, some will already close sooner, or start reducing their capacity and/or opening hours.

"In time, we want to switch to the regular circuit: vaccination via general practitioners, occupational physicians or, for young people, via the Centres for Student Guidance (CLBs)," said Vandenreyt.

The authorities are looking into what will happen after 15 October, but the fact that many centres are closing "can also be an extra reason for those who have not yet been vaccinated to make an appointment now," she added.

The intention is to set up some 60 vaccination points in Flanders, "but a lot will depend on which decision is made about a possible third dose, and which groups would get it."

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