On Thursday, the public health ministers of Belgium announced the Covid-19 vaccination strategy, including priority groups to receive the shots.
“We have a view on not one, but several working vaccines, and there are more in the pipeline. The process is supervised entirely, because safety is essential,” declared Wouter Beke, president of the Interministerial Conference on Public Health.
“It seems that 2021 will be a new start, after a year that we might want to forget, but cannot forget. It is not unthinkable that we will be able to start the first vaccinations at the beginning of January. To a limited extent, because the number of vaccines available will not yet be so high,” he said.
1. Priority groups
Priority groups will be vaccinated following this order:
1. Residents and personnel in care institutions for the elderly, immediately followed by those in other care centers, including volunteers.
2. Healthcare personnel in hospitals, and healthcare personnel working in the first line.
3. Other staff members working in hospitals and staff members of health services (e.g. vaccination centers and cancer screening centers, etc.). This category includes people who can be infected when working, but their risk is lower than for the previous category.
4. People aged 65 years and over. In this case, people will be vaccinated either indiscriminately or in descending age categories, depending on the availability of the vaccine.
5. People between 45 and 65 years old with specific health disorders (e.g. obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, chronic lung, kidney and liver diseases, etc.). The list of conditions is not yet definitive.
6. People working in an essential profession. Even in this case, criteria still have to be further defined.
2. Where, when and who?
Healthcare personnel will be vaccinated at their workplace, while care center residents will be vaccinated in the residential care center. The vaccination strategy includes different phases, which depend on the number of vaccines available at the time:
Phase 1A: the 600,000 doses (for 300,000 people) of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine, which will be available at the beginning of January, will be used for residents of residential care institutions and care personnel. These vaccines must be stored at low temperatures ( -75 degrees Celsius) and must be given in two doses three weeks apart in order to be effective.
Phase 1B: more vaccines will be used for people over 65 and high-risk people.
Phase 2: this second phase will start only when a sufficient supply of vaccines will be available. During phase 2, low-risk patients will have access to the vaccine. Vaccination could take place in companies and schools.
Belgian Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP) hopes that by March-April 2021 the production of the vaccine will be accelerated, allowing various phases to be implemented together.
General practitioners and nurses will be in charge of administering the vaccine. Due to the large number of people that will be vaccinated, additional personnel may be required. The White-Yellow Cross, an organization which specializes in home care, has decided to offer specific training to all its nurses to be able to administer coronavirus vaccines. The army could also help. Another possibility could be to collect the vaccine in the pharmacy and having it administered by the general practitioner.