"To stop using AstraZeneca would be irresponsible" says health minister

The Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Flemish socialist) has told VRT News that he believes that it would be unjustifiable and irresponsible for Belgium to stop vaccinating with the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. Mr Vandenbroucke made his comments in response to the decision of several European countries, including France, the Netherlands and Germany to suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in their respective vaccination programmes. 

The decision to suspend use of the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company’s vaccine was made after a small number of cases of blood clots forming among those that had been given the vaccine. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently studying the evidence. The authorities here in Belgium will make any decision on the AstraZeneca vaccine based on the EMA’s findings.

Speaking on Monday evening, Mr Vandenbroucke told VRT News “These cases must be examined, but to stop vaccinating now would be really irresponsible”.

When asked if the issues surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine would serve to reduce Belgians’ willingness to be vaccinated, Mr Vandenbroucke said "We have seen that today people have gone to the vaccination centres in great numbers because they want to be protected and they are right. Our message is, get yourself vaccinated”.

Rise in coronavirus figures “is disturbing”

Speaking on Tuesday morning about the recent rise in the number of new infections and hospitalisations Mr Vandenbroucke told VRT Radio 1 that the situation was “very disturbing” and “more than just a warning sign”.

“There has been a strong circulation of the virus in recent days with more than 2,800 confirmed infections each day. This is an awful lot, and the numbers are rising relatively sharply. We also see a sharp increase in the number of people being admitted to hospital. Our intensive care wards are starting to become full, while the number of non-corona patients in intensive care is still lower than it would normally be. Operations and treatment are still being put back. This is very bad for people’s health”.

Mr Vandenbroucke said that rules such as those on tele-working i.e. working from home need to be followed strictly if we are to be able to ensure that secondary schools return to 100% face to face teaching after the Easter holidays. The Health Minister also dismissed calls from several politicians to allow pavement terraces to be allowed to open from the start of the Easter holidays.  


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