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Invisible Vaccination Rush: Up to 800,000 injections per week

Invisible Vaccination Rush: Up to 800,000 injections per week

By the end of this year, 2.5 million Flemish people will have had a booster injection. Volunteers at vaccination centers have really worked hard with this. But what they will face now will be more difficult. Because of the decision to speed up the booster campaign, they will have to raise an additional 2.5 million people in January. “That drops to 700,000 to 800,000 shots a week,” says Flemish Welfare Minister Wouter Beke (CD&B).

By comparison: In June, the month with the highest immunizations, we got 660,000 shots in our best week. More than 100,000 must be added, several weeks in a row, while many grafting centers are already on the gums. In recent weeks, a number of centers have had plans to close between Christmas and New Year’s, especially since the longer waiting period for the booster dose has given them so little work. But now, according to Beck, most of them will continue to run.

This will be necessary. And the health ministers decided, on Wednesday, to shorten the period between the second and third injections of Pfizer and Moderna from six to four months. “As a result, two million Flemish people were suddenly invited to a booster dose this week,” says Dirk DeWulf, director general of the Flemish Agency for Care and Health. “These invitations will be sent out starting Friday.”

This mainly concerns people under the age of 65, because 81 percent over that age have already received a booster dose. However, a number of vaccination centers are lagging behind. Some people over the age of fifty and sixty are now receiving their invitation to come and get a booster at the end of January. As a result, they also fall off the QVAX queue. According to the agency, these are some of the exceptional centers that merged earlier during the crisis, when the campaign was in low tide. At first we had 95 cores, now we had 84 cores.

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Moreover, there is an additional challenge, because the Supreme Health Council has given the green light to vaccinate children between the ages of 5 and 11 years. In theory, this means an additional half a million Flemings must be vaccinated twice, depending on the parents’ desire to be vaccinated. “These vaccinations will also start in January,” says de Wolf. “Ideally, it should be completed by the end of February.” These pokes are not included in Beke’s account yet.

How on earth are we going to achieve this? “Creating additional circuits now will come too late. We don’t want to fragment staff and vaccines too much,” says DeWolf. Therefore, the range of existing positions must be expanded. To this end, the government makes a warm appeal to volunteers, general practitioners and hospitals. In the meantime, local authorities are asked to eliminate practical bottlenecks, such as a very small waiting area, for example, tents or containers.

Vaccination centers that indicate they are unable to support childhood vaccinations will be supported by a nearby supplemental vaccination point, which is provided by this center. Student Guidance Centers (CLBs) are also asked to help, although this is not yet certain. For adults, the company is working on a vaccination. From now on, students, paramedics and laboratory technicians are also allowed to administer vaccines.

It is a race against time. According to current forecasts, the infectious omikron variant will become prevalent in Flanders by the holidays. “After a few weeks, in January, GPs will be under pressure,” DeWulf says. “By the end of the month, hospitals will be feeling this way too.”

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