In an attempt to curb the highly transmissible B.1.1.529 Omicron variant cases of the COVID-19, Belgium, on Monday, January 24, 2022, approved the fourth dose of coronavirus vaccine to better protect the immunocompromised population with a weakened immune system.
Public Health Minister of Belgium, Christie Morreale told a press conference that the decision was made on the recommendation by the health council, and the dates when the fourth jab will be rolled out were still undecided, the Associated Press reported on January 24.
The Belgian Consultation Committee also decided to slash the validity period of vaccination certificates from 270 days to 150 days, effective March 1.
The move was aimed at pushing more people to get their booster shot as the European country is battling the tough phase of the pandemic.
This means that anyone who was vaccinated with one dose (only Janssen) or two doses (Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/Oxford) before October 1 must have had a booster shot before March 1, the committee warned in a press note. Otherwise, the validity of the vaccination certificate will expire, it stated.
Belgians protest against COVID-19 vaccines, call it
Belgium has nearly 77%, an estimated 11.5 million of its total population vaccinated against the COVID-19 as the region turned to the global epicentre of the pandemic earlier in November, as many as 2,851 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalised with severe symptoms.
Nearly 364 Belgian citizens were on the intensive care unit, and the country has recorded 28,800 fatalities so far. The administration of the fourth shot comes amid the widespread protests across several European capitals, including Brussels, where anti-coronavirus protests turned violent on Monday.
Demonstrations marched through the Belgian capital chanting anti-COVID-19 rule slogans and clashed with the police that fired rubber bullets and sprayed tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Anti-vaxxers brandished flags from Poland, the Netherland, and Romania, as people labelled new rules “health dictatorship.” Police in rot gears detained over 228 people on Sunday for disturbing public order and violating COVID-19 rules.
Belgium registered close to 60,000 COVID-19 cases just in the past week, and the government called the spread of the variant “a tsunami”.