The booster campaign organised by the Flemish government has accelerated dramatically in the past month, making the region the fastest vaccinator in Europe at the moment.
So far, more than four million people living in Flanders have received their booster shot, equating to almost 75% of adults and 61% of the total population, according to the latest data from Sciensano. More specifically, 69% of people aged between 18 and 64 and 91% of over -65s have received the additional dose.
“Flanders is once again coming out on top when it comes to vaccination. An enormous boost!” Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon stated. “The booster campaign is and remains the key to defeating Omicron.”
Data from the United Kingdom’s Health Security Agency (UKHSA) showed that booster doses continue to provide high levels of protection against severe disease from the Omicron variant, especially among older adults.
Change in policy and restart of vaccination centres
The main reason behind this acceleration was the decision by the Interministerial Conference (IMC) Public Health on 15 December to shorten the interval between the second and third dose of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to four months, down from six, as a result of the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.
This resulted in most people aged over 18 being eligible for the booster dose immediately, rather than having to wait until the end of January or February, which was the case for many, especially slightly younger adults.
Additionally, the 86 existing vaccination centres last month increased their capacity and vaccination rate following the announcement of the interval being shortened for mRNA vaccines to further accelerate the campaign.
“Once again, we have appealed to the commitment, flexibility and dedication of our vaccination centres to enable an acceleration of the vaccination campaign. We certainly succeeded,” Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke said.
In the coming weeks, the vaccination rollout in the region is expected to continue at full speed ahead, as 250,000 vaccines are planned to be administered during the next week, including 190,000 booster shots; 13,000 second doses and 41,000 first doses for children aged five to 11, as well as 3,000 first doses and 3,500 second doses for people aged over 12.
Situation in Belgium
Belgium as a whole is in seventh place on the European ranking of fastest vaccinators. As of Wednesday, some 6.11 million people have received a booster dose of a coronavirus vaccine, representing 66% of over-18s and 53% of the entire population.
Flanders is leading the four regions, followed by Wallonia, where 58% of adults has received a booster dose, the German-speaking region (57%) and Brussels, where just 38% of all adults has received the additional shot.
So far, only those aged over 18 can receive a booster dose.