2021 (2021 (Photographer) - [None]

Omicron: do we need to boost the booster programme like in the UK?

Cases of the omicron variant of coronavirus have seen a tenfold increase in as many days, but Belgium is still waiting for an answer from the High Council for Health on the question of whether to administer boosters sooner.

“Ten days ago, 0.3% of samples indicated the omicron variant.  Today the figure is 3%” says virologist Marc Van Ranst. He believes the share of cases linked to omicron variant will rise sharply. “In England 30% of cases are now omicron”.  

The virologist says there are many reports the new variant makes people less unwell, but he warns it’s far too early to tell, and we will have to wait and see what the impact of omicron will be in Belgium.

It’s also too early to spot omicron’s impact on hospitalisations: “Many omicron infections are in an early stage and are not (yet) impacting on hospitalisations” says Van Ranst.  “Probably this will change”.

The virologist adds that Belgian health care is prepared thanks to earlier waves, but “omicron is more contagious. It could go really fast! That’s something we have not experienced to such a degree.  Everything will depend on the pressure on hospitals.”

The virologist says Belgium should consider shortening the period that needs to lapse before a booster shot can be administered just like in the UK. The question has already been put to High Council for Health.

As long as there’s no answer there’s no point in boosting the booster programme, says Van Ranst.

“Risk groups have already largely received the booster jab.  We can only vaccinate en masse if we shorten the period.  In an ideal world we should speed up the administering of boosters but compared with many countries many people here have already had the booster.”

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