The task force in charge of the vaccination strategy in our country is investigating whether it is possible to give only one vaccination per person in Belgium for the time being. That way, more people could be vaccinated much faster. There are still many obstacles to overcome before that happens.
The time has come: today, 28 December 2020, the first people in Belgium have been vaccinated against the corona virus. That happened with the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech. The real vaccination campaign will start on 5 January.
The Pfizer vaccine will also be used there. The Moderna vaccine may also be added in the course of January. A little later, the vaccine from AstraZeneca would follow along with Oxford University. Yesterday, there was encouraging news about this.
Unfortunately, all three corona vaccines have one major disadvantage: to work optimally, you have to get two doses. At Pfizer / BioNTech, this must be done after 21 days, at Moderna after 28 days and at AstraZeneca / Oxford after one month. The only vaccine in the making where one dose will suffice is that of the Belgian Janssen Pharmaceutica, part of Johnson & Johnson. But we have to wait until about March for that.
These mandatory two doses mean that it takes quite a long time in Belgium for all groups to receive their vaccine. Young people seem to have to wait at least until summer.
You could therefore speed up that waiting time by not giving the second dose for the time being and thus vaccinating more people. Many scientists already seem inclined to investigate that idea. Especially now that the more contagious English variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is on the rise.
“The vaccines from Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna are 90 percent effective for two to three months, possibly even longer,” says vaccinologist Pierre Van Damme (UAntwerpen) to VRT. He sees a lot of advantages for this modified strategy. “You can increase group immunity faster with it. A second advantage is that you could offer something to everyone on the waiting list, including young people, for example before the summer. ”
That second dose will still be necessary later on, but that is possible after the summer, when everyone has already received one vaccine. “We now have to review this fairly quickly with the task force, within three weeks,” says Van Damme.
Dirk Ramaekers, who chairs the vaccine task force, remains more cautious. “We closely follow the new scientific insights on this. For the time being that is not an option as long as it has not been proven that it provides sufficient immunity, ”he says in De Morgen.
Yet adjusting that vaccination strategy is not that easy. Belgium cannot decide on its own to adjust its vaccination strategy. The European Union only gave its approval for the current method of vaccination. Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke (sp.a) has already indicated today that he will investigate this possibility medically and legally.
If necessary, consultation can also be held with the Canadian province of Quebec. They are also considering giving everyone only one dose of the corona vaccine in the first phase.