Belgium prepares to vaccinate from 5 January

Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo speaks during a news conference following a Consultative Committee meeting on the coronavirus COVID-19 in Brussels, Belgium, 27 November 2020. [EPA-EFE/Olivier Matthys]

Belgium will start vaccinating against COVID-19 from 5 January if the EU gives the green light for the vaccine, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on Wednesday as the country’s health ministers are set to agree on a vaccination strategy.

“The vaccination strategy will become clear in the next few days,” De Croo told VRT News. “It is important that we get it right. There is no time to lose, but on 5 January we will be ready, just like other countries.”

“The vaccines have yet to be approved at the European level,” he said. “But as soon as the vaccines are ready, we as a country will be ready to vaccinate as many Belgians as possible, as soon as possible.”

De Croo emphasised that vaccinating 11 million Belgians will take some time. “We will first start with certain groups and then work through a certain schedule,” he said.

According to statements, the future corona vaccine will be free for all Belgians, and for all non-Belgians residing in the country.

Flemish Minister of Health Wouter Beke (CD&V) said that if everything goes according to plan, the country could vaccinate 4 million Belgians by next summer.

According to Beke, the groups that will be vaccinated first are residential care centre staff and residents, hospital and frontline care staff, people over the age of 65 and people between 45 and 65 with underlying health conditions.

They could then be followed by people who work in essential public services are vaccinated, such as the fire brigade and police, as well as teaching staff.

“This strategy is on the table and will undoubtedly be approved tomorrow,” Beke said after Belgium’s health ministers sat together on Wednesday, but the meeting had not reached an agreement on a coronavirus vaccination strategy.

Psychologist Inez Germeys (KU Leuven) believes that young people had to miss a basic need of social interaction for too long and advocated to consider them as one of the priority group when administering the vaccines.

“Don’t forget that even before the first lockdown started, 20% of the young people already had moderate to severe mental health problems,” she told Belgian media.

(Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)

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