We need to talk about Brussels. The vaccination campaign in our country is going so well that the international media are sending their correspondents to witness the Belgian miracle. There is still one ugly stain on this beautiful and important collective achievement. Brussels, the capital.
The vaccination rate gap between Brussels and the rest of the country rises above 20 percentage points. If we look at the percentage of adults who are fully vaccinated, this is 79 percent in Flanders, 73 in Wallonia, but only 56 percent in the capital region. The latest numbers don’t immediately show the ambition to bridge that gap.
The fact that vaccination in big cities is more difficult for all kinds of reasons partly explains the disadvantage in Brussels. Figures compiled by Bruzz News in Brussels show the city is 10 percentage points or more behind other cities such as Antwerp, Ghent or Liege.
So, unfortunately, there is a problem in Brussels. It may stop being overlooked. This problem appears more specifically in the poorer and densely populated municipalities around the canal. While the vaccination rate in residential neighborhoods approaches the vaccination rate in Flanders, in Sint-Just, Molenbeek or Schaerbeek, it drops to 50 percent or less.
Depending on which worldview you adhere to, you can look for an explanation for the ethnic and cultural background of the residents in those neighborhoods, or in the lower social class. The truth may be somewhere in the middle. Vaccination workers in the relevant municipalities are facing anti-vaccination conspiracies that are spreading “viral” in some immigrant communities and difficult access for people living in precarious conditions.
What’s even more interesting is the question of what we’re going to do about it. It seems that the competent politicians in Brussels, half in denial, half on vacation, do not fully understand the seriousness of the matter. In the next stage, they may complain about being targeted and stigmatized. This wailing, because of all of the above, is unjustified this time.
It is therefore not surprising that other regions, Flanders in the lead, have begun to make plans for further relaxation that threatens to alienate Brussels and the residents of Brussels. If the capital’s political leaders want to avoid this, there is only one way out: to move forward with full force.
Show New York way. No matter what the rest of the country does, the largest city in the United States has introduced a vaccine card for those who want to go to a cafe or restaurant. Although all privacy objections to this “traffic community” are justified and important, in an exceptional and limited case it can be an unfortunate but necessary solution to a serious problem.
This is the problem of Brussels. Thus, Brussels can solve it on its own.
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