Temporary limit on AstraZeneca vaccine will have ‘minimal impact’ on vaccination rollout
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Temporary limit on AstraZeneca vaccine will have ‘minimal impact’ on vaccination rollout

Credit: Belga

The decision by Belgium to temporarily limit the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to those over the age of 55 will have little impact on the vaccination campaign in Belgium, according to Federal and Flemish health ministers Frank Vandenbroucke and Wouter Beke.

On Wednesday, the country’s different health ministers decided to suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine for people younger than 56 years old for one month after the EMA announced that there is a possible link between the dose and rare cases of blood clots with low blood platelets.

“The decision about the AstraZeneca vaccine will have almost no impact. Around 6,000 shots that need to be rebooked (in Flanders) mainly involve young trainees in hospitals and care facilities, as they will not be vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Beke said on Radio 1.

According to the head of Wallonia’s Covid-19 cell, Yvon Englert, a few hundred people will be affected in the south of the country, but if the restriction were to continue beyond four weeks, the campaign would have to “slow down as it still relies on these vaccines.”

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Vandenbroucke explained that this decision would not impact the speed of the vaccination rollout at this stage, as mainly elderly people are being vaccinated, and that the strategy will be discussed again within four weeks.

He emphasised his relief with the decision to not fully stop the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine last month, as “we have saved many lives with it,” adding that there was never any doubt that there are side effects associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, as with any vaccine.

Vandenbroucke criticised the EMA, mainly for its failure to provide more clarity on the risks of each vaccine for various age groups, an issue which he said he raised these issues during a virtual meeting between the health ministers from the EU member states on Wednesday.

“We were not so happy with the fact that the EMA did not extend the analysis further to discuss what the best choice of vaccines is for each age group. If you have a choice of different vaccines, how would you divide them up between those groups?” Vandenbroucke said on Radio 1.

He added that Belgium’s Superior Health Council has looked at the data from EMA and has said that “if you have the choice between different vaccines, and it doesn’t change the speed of the vaccination campaign, then adapt to the age groups and the side effects that each vaccine can bring to that group.”

Lauren Walker
The Brussels Times