Belgium will continue using AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, task force says
Tuesday, 16 March 2021
AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, of which other countries have temporarily halted the use due to health risks, will still be administered in Belgium, the Vaccination Task Force confirmed on Monday evening.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Superior Health Council had made this decision, based on scientific advice from European and Belgian experts, with which the interministerial conference on public health later agreed.
“It would be irresponsible to suspend vaccinations with the AstraZeneca vaccine right now,” said Minister of Public Health, Frank Vandenbroucke.
Several countries – including Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark – have already put their vaccination campaigns with the AstraZeneca shot on hold, following reports that several people developed blood clots and thrombosis symptoms after being vaccinated.
The rate of thrombosis in people who were administered with the AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which the task force called “good, safe and effective”, is lower than in the general population.
The task force further emphasised that it reduces the risk of hospitalisation for people with infection by 94%, and that in light of these figures, the safety and health of citizens is a higher priority than their participation in the campaign.
However, it highlighted that every case of thrombosis that occurs after the administration of AstraZeneca’s vaccine is registered by the Belgian Medicines Agency (FAMHP) which, after analysis, forwards the data to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Belgium’s decision to continue using the vaccine follows the advice of the EMA, which had previously said that the benefits of the dose outweigh the risks.
However, the EMA met on Monday to discuss whether a reconsideration of its use within the member states is necessary, and its opinion is expected to be issued on Thursday.
“In the meantime, the much-needed vaccinations will continue unabated so that we can get back to our normal lives as soon as possible, under optimal conditions,” the task force said.
Flemish Public Health Minister Wouter Beke told TV Limburg that the Superior Health Council also emphasised there was no reason to discontinue the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in Belgium.
“You also have to take into account the increasing infection rates in Belgium, we are expecting that this trend won’t be over immediately, and right now it is much more likely to end up in the hospital because of the virus than because of the vaccine,” he said.