What is the state of Belgium’s vaccination programme?

The slow pace at which Belgium seems to have started its vaccination campaign against coronavirus is attracting considerable criticism.  By the end of the week only 23,000 care home residents will have been immunised.

The European commission organised the purchase of vaccines for Belgium and other member states and these vaccines are being distributed in line with availability and population numbers.  Countries like the UK, the US and Israel struck individual deals and more often than not paid more.

If the EU organises the joint purchase, individual countries decide which vaccines they want and how many they wish to order.  Here are the figures for Belgium:

AstraZeneca/Oxford University: 7.74 million doses (2 doses required per person), Johnson&Johnson (Janssen) 5.16 million (1 dose), Pfizer/BioNTech 5 million (2 doses), CureVac 2.9 million (2 doses) and Moderna 2 million (2 doses). When all are delivered Belgium will possess 22.8 million doses, enough to vaccinate 14 million people.

Supplies are reliant on approval by the European Medicines Agency and production.

Belgium received a first supply of 5,000 doses of Pfizer – produced in Belgium – and gets a further 87,500 doses a week.  In February this figure should rise to 100,000 a week.

This means 300,000 doses are available in January, enough to vaccinate 150,000 people.

So far 700 Belgians have been immunised. This week 23,000 Belgians should be vaccinated: 6,600 in Flanders, 12,000 in Wallonia and 4,000 in Brussels.  Half the available vaccines are being set aside for the second dose.

Dirk Ramaekers of the vaccination taskforce insists the pace of vaccinations will soon increase enormously.

Moderna is the second vaccine expected to be approved in the EU.  This should happen as early as this week, but when the first vaccines and how many will be delivered is unclear. We may have to wait till the end of January.

Johnson&Johnson (Janssen) could be the third vaccine to become available in Belgium.  It has the advantage that only one jab is needed. Belgium has ordered 5 million doses. Fleming Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer at Johnson&Johnson, earlier stated that this vaccine could be available in Belgium in March or April.

AstraZeneca’s Oxford vaccine too could soon be readily available.  It has already been approved and is being administered in the UK. The European approval could come in February. 

Finally, CureVac is not expected to be approved just yet.

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