According to Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke, Belgium will organise another large-scale Covid-19 vaccination campaign after the summer.
With only 76 Covid-19 patients requiring intensive care and fewer than 900 Covid-19 patients in hospitals, Vandenbroucke said on Flemish television on Thursday evening that Belgium can be “relatively confident” of a summer without restrictions.
“However, the virus still exists.” It would be odd if no more (small) waves appeared, but we don’t know what that would imply” He believes “A new wave may have no serious consequences, but it is also possible that we will be confronted with a variant that makes people sicker and is highly infectious.”
This is why, according to Vandenbroucke, the health authorities have prepared a variety of scenarios. As part of those scenarios, the Interministerial Conference on Health (IMC) decided in early May to give people over the age of 80 a fourth dose, also known as a second booster.
A decision has not yet been made.
“Those invitations are being distributed now,” he explained, “but nothing has been decided for the rest of the population.” “We’re thinking about buying new vaccines, and there’s a good chance we’ll do another large-scale vaccination campaign after the summer.”
While the European Medicines Agency (EMA) concluded in April that second booster doses were safe, it was still “too early” to consider giving a fourth dose to the general population. Despite this, the report suggests that “re-vaccination campaigns” could begin in the fall.
According to Vandenbroucke, who cited a recent Sciensano national health institute study on the vaccines’ long-term efficacy, while the vaccines protect against serious illness and hospitalisation very well (and for a long time), their protection against infection or mild symptoms wears off “quite quickly.”
According to the study, those who received the first two doses – the so-called basic vaccination – were initially 81% more protected against symptomatic infection than those who were not vaccinated. After three to five months, however, this percentage had dropped to 56%. After a booster dose, it increased to 84 percent.
The Omicron variant provided only 37% protection against symptomatic infection after the first two shots. This was cut in half after three to five months. According to the researchers, the findings were “not surprising” because the vaccine was designed for the first variant of the virus. “On the other hand, the booster provides additional protection, particularly against hospitalisation.””