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Belgium's Health Council OKs Oxford vaccine for over 55s

Belgium’s High Council for Health has issued new guidance with regard to the AstraZeneca corona vaccine developed in conjunction with scientists at Oxford University in England.  The Council says the corona vaccine can be administered to the over 55s.

The European Medicines Agency earlier ruled that insufficient data was available on the effectiveness of the Oxford vaccine among the over 55s.  This upset Belgium’s vaccination strategy as the Oxford vaccine was initially mainly intended for this group.

The High Council now acknowledges sufficient studies now exist showing that the vaccine is effective among all age groups. 

The decision is good news for the over 55s.  They should now get their jab sooner.  As the oldest part of the population, they are more at risk of ending up in hospital when they come down with coronavirus.  Vaccinating this group will further ease pressure on the health system and hospitals. Once this group has received the jab, relaxations become more likely.

It will now be up to Belgium’s six governments and nine ministers charged with health policy to decide any changes to the vaccination strategy.  Belgian health minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Flemish socialist) has already indicated that the recommendation will alter Belgium’s vaccination strategy.

Experts looked at whether more time can be allowed to lapse between the first and second jab of the Pfizer vaccine and whether the second jab is really necessary.   

The High Council says that a little more time can be allowed to lapse between the first and the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine being administered.  The Council is advising against dropping the second dose of any of the three approved vaccines – a measure that would double the number of vaccines that are available in one go.

The experts are in favour of allowing slightly more time to lapse between the first and second shot of the Pfizer vaccine, but preferably no longer than 42 days adds health minister Vandenbroucke (Flemish socialist).

“Preferably the second shot must be as close as possible to 21 days after the first jab” says vaccinologist Pierre Van Damme. “This can be increased to 35 days if the epidemiological situation requires more doses to be freed up.” 

Prof Van Damme added there was currently no scientific evidence to support the view that it was sufficient to invest in one single shot of the current vaccines.

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