First in line will be the chronically ill and older people, but who will come next? Jan De Maeseneer, a professor of family medicine, says politicians should launch an open debate now.
“A systematic approach is needed. In our vaccination programme we will have to make a start on a number of groups. First in line with be those who are most likely to die if they get coronavirus: the over 65s and people with health risks. Add people working in health care and other care professionals and we’re easily talking about 4 million people.”
“It will be immensely important to demarcate who belongs in each group and who does not. Which jobs and professions are included and which are not? Which chronic afflictions will count? What is seen as a risk factor?”
“In the US a list has carefully been drawn up. There are four phases in the vaccination programme. Key workers like fire-fighters are included in phase 2. In a study by the National Academy of Medicine, of which I am a foreign member, they thoroughly considered how society in the US can deal with this.”
“Social justice is a top priority. Everybody should have equal access to the vaccine, but it should be most accessible for the people with the greatest need.”
Prof De Maeseneer insists on the need for an open debate in parliament in Belgium with detailed listing and explanation of priority groups.
“This important social project will succeed if everything is done in a transparent way, if the population is properly informed and has the feeling it’s being done well and everybody is satisfied, they will get the vaccine on time”.