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Belgium opts for voluntary vaccination

The authorities want to reassure citizens by not forcing them to use future vaccines.

Max HELLEFF

The authorities want to reassure citizens by not forcing them to use future vaccines.

From our correspondent, Max Helleff (Brussels) – The prospect of soon having a vaccine preserving the coronavirus has initiated a debate in Belgium on its effectiveness and administration. This questioning has been growing ever since the American firm Moderna assured that its vaccine against covid-19 is 94.5% effective.

Previously, Pfizer and BioNTech laboratories had announced the imminent arrival of their vaccine, which was “90%” effective. The European Commission has since announced that it has signed an early purchase agreement with the CureVac laboratory, in addition to agreements with Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), and Sanofi-GSK.

The questions which cross the population are in Belgium as elsewhere numerous, sometimes anguished. Who will get the vaccine – because there won’t be enough for everyone at the start? Are we going to impose it when scientific data on possible side effects is lacking? Will a refusal be worth being ostracized from his company on the grounds that a resurgence of the infection could condemn it to yet another confinement? Etc.

Not to mention the inevitable conspiracy theories. One of the most heady is to say that the vaccine will especially allow the Belgian state to “chip” its citizens. The virologist Emmanuel André chose to respond to this duck with humor: “I just checked for myself: even the smallest GPS chip cannot pass through the needles (…) Unless you get vaccinated with it. something more like a straw than a needle, you don’t risk falling victim to a dark conspiracy. “

The Belgian authorities seek to create confidence to appease the spirits. They outline a vaccination strategy in several points: the vaccine will be free and 70% of the population will receive it on a voluntary basis; Belgians will be vaccinated “in groups as much as possible”; the vaccine will a priori be presented in the form of “multidose vials to be administered on the same day”. A monitoring plan will be put in place. A group of experts will be in charge of “rationalizing and coordinating scientific and public communication”. It will also have to organize a “societal debate” which will make it possible, on the basis of scientific advice, to identify priority groups in the vaccination process.

On this last point, nothing has yet been decided. A study conducted by the KULeuven on the basis of 2000 respondents aged 18 to 80 concludes that “age is not necessarily a priority criterion: if there are not enough vaccines for everyone, it should be distributed as a priority, either to super-contaminators, or to chronically ill patients whatever their age and, in any case, to professions deemed essential to overcome this pandemic ”.

While waiting to see more clearly, scientists follow one another on television sets to say all the good things they think about the arrival of these vaccines, real lifesavers to be heard for saturated hospitals. They also welcome the decision to reinstate, as of Monday, November 23, a screening strategy extended to those who have been in close contact with a positive case or who have returned from an area at risk. For several weeks, these tests had been reserved for symptomatic people only, due to the saturation of sorting centers and analysis laboratories. Data on the level of contamination were fatally flawed.


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