Everybody to be offered a booster jab

Belgian health ministers have OKed a booster jab for people who got the one-shot Janssen vaccine against coronavirus, sometimes called the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  They have also decided that in time everybody in Belgium will be offered a booster no matter which vaccine they were originally given.  The decision comes after the High Council for Health recommended a booster jab for people who had received Janssen.

“It’s important we have taken this decision that will make a booster jab available to the entire population” said Flemish health minister Beke. “How and when this will be done is a matter that the experts of the High Council for Health will now consider”.

The aim is to finalise an operational plan by the end of November.

“The plan will say how we will organise the boosters, who will be first in line and which time delays will be respected.

Mr Beke notes that boosters are already being administered to over 65s and health care staff.

“400,000 people in Flanders have already had a booster” he said. “We need to make preparations to give everybody an extra jab in 2022. Prof Van Damme of the vaccination taskforce says we must see this as a further step in the vaccination schedule.  The virus has not disappeared.  Two jabs are not sufficient.  This is why a third jab is so important.”

The experts say protection afforded by the Janssen vaccine quickly dissipates and after a while no longer offers sufficient protection.  The booster will be either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.  Some 400,000 people in Belgium received the Janssen vaccine.  Most of these vaccines were administered to people in the 40-to-65 age bracket and to groups that are hard to reach like the homeless.

“After six months the Janssen vaccine offers 13% protection against community infections.  It does, however, still offer 73% protection against death, which is less than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines” says VRT’s Koen Wauters.

Vaccination centres won’t be closing by the end of the year as some people may have thought.

“We must make preparations to keep vaccination centres open for longer” Mr Beke said.

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