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606 COVID-19 deaths in Belgium so far this year, but who were they?

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in Belgium in March 2020 almost 29,000 people have died after having become infected with coronavirus. Thanks to the vaccination programme the total number of deaths is not rising anything like as quickly as it did at the start of the pandemic. But who are those that are still dying? 

The most recent figures show that an average of 20 people with COVID-19 are dying in Belgium every day. Since the beginning of 2022 606 people with COVID-19 have died in Belgium.

The virologist Steven Van Gucht told VRT News that during the 5th wave of the pandemic the number of deaths has been relatively low. Professor Van Gucht added that the big difference between now and earlier in the pandemic is that very many people that are a most risk of death if they become infected with coronavirus have been immunised. “The vaccines appear to offer good protection against death from COVID-19”.

This assertion is supported by the figures. Although only 11.4% of the adult population has not been vaccinated against coronavirus, those that have not been vaccinated account for 43.1% of COVID-19 deaths. 

The importance of a booster

Above all an additional booster vaccine offers best protection against death from COVID-19. Professor Van Gucht told VRT News that people under the age of 85 that have been double-jabbed are three times less likely to die after having contracted COVID-19 than people that haven’t been vaccinated. 

Those that have been given an additional “booster” jab are 19 timers less likely to die if they contract COVID-19. The extra protection offered by vaccination is also evident among those older than 85. 

Men aged 79 and above

Men are overrepresented among the 606 deaths of people with COVID-19 in 2022. So far this year 229 women and 377 men with COVID-19 have died in Belgium. At the start of the pandemic more women than men were dying after having become infected with coronavirus. Last year among the over 85s with COVID-19 that died there were more women, than men. This can above be explained by the fact that there are more women in the oldest age demographics to start with. Furthermore, older people are more suspectable to becoming seriously ill if they have COVID-19.

But why are more men than women dying now? "We have known for a long time that men are slightly more susceptible to complications that can occur with COVID-19. They run a greater risk of getting lung inflammation and blood issues and of dying”, Professor Van Gucht told VRT News.

The virologist went on to say that the age at which people with COVID-19 are dying is also now younger that was the case earlier in the pandemic. Last week the average age of those that died was 74. It has since risen to 79. At the start of the pandemic the lion’s share of those dying with COVID-19 were aged 85 and above.

1 in 5 is a care home resident

While at the start of the pandemic a very large portion of those dying were care home residents, currently they only account for 1 in 5 COVID-19 deaths.

Nevertheless, the current slight rise in the number of deaths is for a large part due to outbreaks of coronavirus in care homes. During the past week 15% of care homes reported outbreaks of coronavirus, compared with 9% during the previous week.  

Proportionally more deaths in Brussels

Professor Van Gucht told VRT News that the Brussels-Capital Region has had the most deaths of people with COVID-19, followed by Wallonia and then Flanders.

"Certainly, during the past few months that death rate in Brussels has mostly been twice as high as in Flanders. We think that this is due to the difference in vaccination levels.

Things were very different in early 2021. Then proportionally more people in Flanders were dying with COVID-19 than elsewhere in Belgium. This changed from March 2021. During the peak of the fourth wave in November 2021 the death rate in Flanders was already relatively high, equaling that in Wallonia. 

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