The vaccination of children aged five to 11 kicks off today in Flanders with a pilot phase starting in Wallonia – where the full rollout has been delayed until mid-January.
Some 200 invitations have been sent to children between the ages of five and 11 in Gooik in Flemish Brabant to receive a vaccine dose that contains a lower concentration of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine (10 µg compared with 30 µg). This will be administered to children on Thursday, the first official day of the region’s vaccination campaign for this age group.
It remains to be seen how many children will show up on the first day, since there is no obligation for children to receive the vaccine. Today acts as a kind of test day, according to Joris Moonens, spokesperson for the Agency for Care and Health.
“We are curious about the number. We do assume that the number will be lower than in the adult population because children themselves benefit less from the vaccination,” he told Belga News Agency.
He added that Thursday will be an occasion to see how smoothly the process runs, how many children can be vaccinated in how much time, how the premises can be made child-friendly, and so on.
Fifteen other vaccination centres in Flanders sent out their first invitations to children. The children there will probably receive their first injection in the first week of January.
Extended test phase and postponed rollout
In Brussels, the test phase for the vaccination of children at the Pacheco vaccination centre started a week ago; so far, some 460 children have already received a coronavirus shot. The launch of the large-scale campaign is planned for January 2022, for which some 1,000 children have registered.
In Wallonia, it was announced on Wednesday that the start of the children vaccination campaign would be postponed until Wednesday 19 January in order to focus on administering third vaccine doses to adults to counter the Omicron variant.
The additional time allocated will also allow a pilot vaccination of children during the week of 10 January, the office of the Walloon Minister of Health, Christie Morreale, told Belga News Agency.
A Europe-wide effort
At the end of November 2021, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved this particular vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years, resulting in the Inter-ministerial Conference on Public Health (IMC) giving the vaccination of children the green light as well.
Calls for the vaccination of young children against Covid-19 grew as infections spread rapidly through primary schools resulting in schools having to close their doors due to a large number of infections among pupils and teachers.
Vaccination is voluntary, and the agreement of the parents or legal guardian is needed. Even once all children have had the chance to be vaccinated, they will not be subject to the use of the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) in Belgium until the age of 12.
The vaccine used for this vaccination will be the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine in its paediatric form, dosed at 10 micrograms, or 1/3 of the adult dose. It will be administered in two doses 21 days apart.