Brussels Minister of Health Alain Maron asked for 120,000 doses to be recovered in Brussels, following reports that vaccines were given to non-residents of the region, during a meeting between the country’s health ministers on Wednesday.
According to the latest data published by Sciensano, almost 130,000 non-residents of Brussels have received a shot at a Brussels-based vaccination centre. Almost a quarter of the total vaccines administered in the region were given to residents of Flanders or Wallonia.
“Common sense must prevail,” Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort, who confirmed that the discussion is still ongoing, said on RTBF.
“I have no problem with the fact that 200,000 people (including international civil servants) were vaccinated in the Brussels Region. But it is legitimate that we should be able to recover doses for our fellow Brussels citizens if there is a problem with stock management.
He emphasised that this is a discussion that will have to take place at a federal level.
On paper, Brussels is running behind in the vaccination of its residents, as just 39% of the adult population has received at least one dose, in comparison with 52% in Flanders and 54% in Wallonia.
However, the regions all receive the same number of doses according to the number of inhabitants, which is why Brussels has been asking for figures on who has been vaccinated in the region. The 130,000 doses given to non-residents could explain the discrepancy.
It is believed that residents from Wallonia and Flanders who work in Brussels were vaccinated in the capital, as well as several opportunists.
Brussels, however, is struggling with another problem that is more concerning: the vaccine hesitancy of its residents.
The Joint Community Commission (Cocom) has created a more individualised approach to the rollout to meet the specific needs of certain Brussels residents, including homeless people and people from poorer backgrounds.
“We really need to do some convincing work, because including in vaccination, this health crisis shows and demonstrates that a social divide exists in the big cities, and in Brussels in particular,” said Vervoort.
“This is reflected in the rates of infection and even in the rates of vaccination,” he added.
The region has also relaunched the vaccination campaign for several age groups.
On Wednesday, Brussels reached the milestone of administering 500,000 doses in its ten vaccination centres, the Cocom announced in a statement.
In total, around 650,000 people have received their first dose in Brussels, which includes people who were vaccinated outside vaccination centres, for example in residential care centres and by other mobile teams. Of these, a little more than 225,000 were second doses.
On Tuesday, the age at which residents of the Brussels-Capital Region can register to get vaccinated was lowered to those over 36 years old, whilst anyone over 31 years old can put themselves on the waiting list, meaning they will be called in case vaccine doses are left over at the end of the day.