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Belgium prepares new Covid-19 vaccine booster campaign

15:02 25/06/2023

Belgium is gearing up to launch a new Covid-19 vaccination campaign this autumn. However, uncertainty about if the vaccines will be suitable for the newest variants of the virus is complicating the planning stage.

Public health ministers will meet on 28 June to discuss how to organise the new vaccination campaign. The campaign itself is not in doubt, but decisions need to made regarding which groups will be targeted, where the vaccinations will take place and how much they will cost.

The federal government is worried that, come autumn, it will not receive vaccines adapted to the dominant coronavirus variant. And it is not certain at this stage which section of the population will be offered another booster.

Belgium’s Superior Health Council will soon present its recommendations on the subject. One thing is clear: the campaign will be on a far smaller scale than previous ones. There will certainly not be vaccination centres in sports halls or other large public venues.

Sciensano head of viral services Steven Van Gucht said everyone will have the option to benefit from a booster shot - but could not say if the vaccine would stay free of charge.

Jean-Michel Dogné, a director at the pharmacy department of the University of Namur and an expert in the vaccine safety committee at the World Health Organisation, told RTBF that the vaccine would likely be offered to the over-60s and to those more than 50 with underlying health problems or who are heavy smokers, drinkers or obese.

For Dogné, this vaccine would become part of an annual vaccination programme rolled out in September or October every year. “It will be systematic, as it is for flu. Autumn is the best season to boost the immunity of populations at risk.”

The vaccine expert added that another health crisis was unlikely as nearly 90% of the Belgian population has been vaccinated and/or infected by the coronavirus.

And even if there was an unexpected surge in Covid-19 cases this autumn, as is the case every seven years with the flu, there would be no more shutdowns or other restrictive measures.

Written by Liz Newmark