Nicolas Maeterlinck

Vaccinologist says that the optimal use of vaccines holds the key to the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions

The Antwerp University vaccinologist Professor Pierre Van Damme has explained why it has been decided to lower the age limit for the administration of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to 41. Speaking on VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’, Professor Van Damme also explained why no age limit has been set for the vaccination of people in Belgium with the Johnson&Johnson vaccine. 

Professor Van Damme said that the decision was taken after consideration of the advice given earlier this week by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and based on experience with the Johnson&Johnson vaccine in the United States and the AstraZeneca vaccine in the United Kingdom.

In addition to this this the relevant authorities also examined how the available vaccines can be put to the best possible use under the current circumstances. Professor Van Damme, who is a member of the Vaccination Taskforce, added that the decisions regarding the AstraZeneca and Johnson&Johnson vaccines that were taken on Saturday will ensure that the vaccination campaign in Belgium can continue to gather pace.

He added that “We all want the measures to be relaxed. This is only logical after a year of having lived with measures. It we were then to slow down by not putting the vaccine to optimal use, we would have to keep the measures for even longer and it would have less impact on the epidemiological figures. So, it is logical that we should use the vaccines that we now have”.

Professor Van Damme notes that during May and June we are 50% dependent on deliveries of vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson&Johnson. 

During the coming months Johnson&Johnson is due to supply Belgium with 1.4 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine. Just one dose of the Johnson&Johnson vaccine is required to immunise against coronavirus. The Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines that Belgium is also using in its vaccination campaign all require two doses. “So, this is very important for our country’s vaccination campaign”, Professor Van Damme concluded.  


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