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Belgium sticks to its guns; Poles give NATO staff the jab

NATO leaders are expected to meet for a summit meeting at the alliance’s new headquarters building in Brussels, possibly in June.  Heads of state and government will be attending including US President Biden.  In order to make the gathering Covid secure all NATO staff will be vaccinated against coronavirus at the end of the week.  Polish doctors using Polish doses of the corona vaccine will do the honours, because Belgium insisted on sticking to existing priority rules and refused to let NATO staff jump the vaccine queue.

NATO had wanted everybody working at NATO HQ to be vaccinated, not only NATO staff, but also security and catering staff.  As the Belgian authorities wouldn’t bend their rules twenty Polish doctors are travelling to Brussels on Thursday. They will administer the jabs over three days and use Polish doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.  The vaccinations will not have any impact on Belgian stocks.

NATO first asked Belgium to immunise around 3,500 staff including many Belgian nationals, but the federal health ministry here was unwilling to budge. Belgium is sticking to its vaccination strategy and is prioritising seniors and risk groups.

VRT defence expert Jan Balliauw believes the Belgian stand may result in damage to the country’s reputation.  “Some countries may now argue Belgium enjoys the benefits of having NATO’s administrative HQ here, but isn’t particularly interested in the drawbacks. Remember, other international bodies like the EU are also based here.  They too will not be prioritised.”

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has welcomed the Polish intervention.  In a tweet thanking the Poles he spoke of Poland as a strong ally and added that resilience and solidarity are important values for NATO. Belgium is not mentioned, but detractors could argue the country is showing less solidarity than expected.

It remains unclear why exactly Poland got involved.  Polish premier Morawiecki says his country responded to a request from NATO.  Poland does not appear to have volunteered of its own accord.

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