Get your Covid-19-shot this autumn and stay safe.

Vaccination

Why should I get vaccinated?

In the fight against the coronavirus, a number of measures must be taken simultaneously. In addition to the protective measures, such as wearing a mask, ventilation, testing, etc., the vaccine is one of the best ways to protect against hospitalization or death from COVID-19.

The vaccine stimulates your body to create antibodies. These substances help your body fight the virus. What if you come into contact with the virus afterwards? The antibodies will protect you.

The vaccine not only protects you but also the people around you. Coronavirus is dangerous for people older than 65 or persons that have certain conditions. If as many people as possible in Belgium are vaccinated, the spread of the virus will be inhibited. This, in turn, will better protect the people who cannot have the vaccination.

Vaccination against coronavirus is voluntary and free to all.

You must continue to comply with the coronavirus rules after vaccination, until sufficient people have been vaccinated. So, maintain a 1.5 metre distance, wear a face mask and wash your hands frequently.

Is the vaccine safe?

  • There was already a great deal of expertise about the creation of vaccines. Scientists, pharmaceutical specialists, businesses and governments across the world worked together on the coronavirus vaccine. A great deal of time and money has been freed up in order to tackle this urgent problem. As a result, the vaccines have been developed very quickly.
  • All vaccines, however, are checked extremely carefully by the government. More information here.

When will I get my vaccine?

Each region can take its own measures for the practical implementation of vaccinations. Therefore, check the website of the region where you live.

How is vaccine administered?

During your appointment:

  • You will be given an injection in your upper arm.
  • A few weeks after the first injection, you will be given your second injection. At the moment, each vaccine requires two doses, except for the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. Because your immunity decreases after a while, booster vaccines are currently offered.
  • After vaccination, it takes between 10 and 14 days before your body begins to make antibodies. Only then do you have the best possible protection against the virus.

Overview of vaccinations and deliveries

Number of vaccinations in Belgium

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

    Why should I be vaccinated?

    In terms of COVID-19, the summer of 2022 went relatively well. People could travel, meet, go to parties and festivals, all without any restrictions. Only in healthcare are mouth masks still mandatory.

    We owe this great freedom to the measures taken and the successful vaccination campaigns, which prevented large numbers of people from contracting a serious form of COVID-19. This avoided overloading the healthcare system. There are currently more people in hospital because of COVID-19 than in the same period last year, but fewer people in intensive care in proportion.

    With the restart after the summer and of the schools, we expect an increase in people with COVID, like last year. Projections from Hasselt University/UAntwerp show that this wave will peak from mid-October 2022. By then we want to have given the majority of the booster vaccinations, so that as many people as possible are protected against severe COVID-19.

    Who can get vaccinated?
    • Anyone domiciled in Belgium and aged 6 months or older can receive a basis vaccination in Belgium. In principle, you must be at least 5 years old for the autumn booster.
    • Anyone who carries out an economic activity in Belgium, but lives abroad (see next questions)
    • Belgians residing abroad (see next questions).
    • For certain groups that are difficult to reach, one will work through the aid organizations involved (eg the homeless). These persons also have a national register number if they are Belgian, and a domicile address of their NGO. You will receive a personal invitation when it is your turn.

    The Interministerial Public Health Conference of 16 November 2022 gave the go-ahead for the basic COVID-19 vaccination of children aged 6 months to 4 years.

    Vaccination against COVID is not recommended in healthy children, but it can be done on an individual basis, with well-informed parental consent. These children can be vaccinated at a Pediatric Reference Centre.

    The basic vaccination is recommended for children with immunosuppression or with serious chronic conditions. The list of conditions can be found in the advice of the SHC.

    The vaccination is done with an original pediatric Pfizer vaccine. The basic schedule consists of 3 doses, with an interval of approximately 3 weeks between the first 2 doses and with the 3rd dose 2 months after the 2nd dose.

    The majority of these children are followed up by a paediatrician in a reference hospital. This will invite the parents to have the child vaccinated by him/her. It is therefore pointless for these patients to contact the center themselves in the first instance. Paediatricians outside a reference center who treat such patients can contact their colleagues in the centers for an appointment for vaccination.

    What about the vaccination of Belgians abroad?

    If you are Belgian, but you live or work abroad, you will in principle be vaccinated in the country of residence. But you can also choose to be vaccinated in Belgium, especially if you live in a country that does not work with the same corona vaccines as in Belgium.

    • Same vaccines. Belgians living in countries that use the same vaccine types as Belgium are advised to get vaccinated locally. For this, it is best to contact the Belgian embassy or the Consulate General in the country of residence. If you cannot be vaccinated in the country of residence or if practical concerns prevent you, you can still choose to be vaccinated in Belgium.

    • Other vaccines. In about [150 countries or territories] (https://diplomatie.belgium.be/sites/default/files/downloads/landenlijst.pdf) different vaccines are used than in Belgium. Belgians who live there and are registered at the local embassy or consulate-general can register for vaccination in Belgium. The vaccination is planned from June. Their partner of another nationality and adult children can also be vaccinated in Belgium.

    See also:on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

    I am not Belgian, but I do reside in Belgium. Can I be vaccinated in Belgium?

    Non-Belgians who stay in Belgium for more than 3 months can be vaccinated in Belgium can ask a BIS number from a GP or another physician. The patient must be able to present a valid identity document for this. A BIS number is a unique identification number for social security for persons who are not registered in the National Register, but who nevertheless have a relationship with the Belgian authorities. This concerns, for example:

    • foreign trainees or employees who have been active in Belgian health care for more than 3 months.
    • non-Belgians who have been registered in Belgium as a student or employee for more than 3 months.
    • non-Belgians staying in Belgium for more than 3 months (not as an employee or student).

    If the patient does not have a valid identity document or does not live in Belgium, but is only staying in the country for a short time, the physician can create a unique number for this person, the so-called TER number/COVID ID, which is only valid for an identification in the context of the Covid crisis. This TER number/COVID ID must be communicated to the patient. The doctors can use this system for undocumented travelers, and this only in the context of the COVID health crisis.

    I received my first vaccination abroad. Can I get a second shot in Belgium?

    Yes, you can get your second shot in Belgium if you received a first dose abroad of a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or of the CoviShield vaccine type approved as equivalent. You must first contact your doctor to have your vaccination registered. After that you can go to the vaccination center of your place of residence or place of residence for the second shot. The vaccination schedule is then completed with the same vaccine type, regardless of the period between 2 vaccinations. It is therefore not necessary to start a new schedule, only a second dose has to be administered. This way you can still obtain the COVID certificate of complete vaccination.

    If you received a first dose of a vaccine abroad that has not (yet) been approved by the EMA (eg Sputnik V), and thus not recognized in Belgium (see further down) you cannot get a second shot of the same vaccine in Belgium. If you cannot go to the country where you received your first vaccine for a second dose, you can be re-vaccinated in Belgium with a different vaccine and vaccination schedule.

    All vaccines recognized in Belgium can be found here: https://dofi.ibz.be/en/themes/covid-19/international-travels

    What is a vaccine and how does it work?
    Vaccines work by stimulating a person’s immune system (the body’s natural resistance), and getting them ready to recognise a certain germ and defend against this germ or infectious disease. If you get infected with a virus, e.g. COVID-19, at a later date, your immune system recognises it and, because it is already prepared to attack it, protects you against this virus. Currently, different vaccines are being tested that are made in different ways. They result in the body building up resistance to the virus in different ways.
    What are the different types of vaccines?

    Scientists have developed various types of vaccine to combat COVID-19. All these vaccines target our immune systems safely in order to ‘train’ it to fight coronavirus. The body is thus prepared for a genuine coronavirus infection.

    Different types of potential COVID-19 vaccines are under development:

    1. Inactivated or weakened virus vaccines, which use a form of the virus that is inactivated or weakened so that it does not cause the illness but does generate an immune response.
    2. Protein-based vaccines, which use harmless fragments of protein or protein casings which mimic the COVID-19 virus in order to generate an immune response.(i.e. the Novavax vaccine)
    3. Viral vector vaccines, which use a virus that is genetically modified so it cannot cause illness, but does produce coronavirus proteins to safely generate an immune response. (i.e. the Astra Zeneca vaccine)
    4. RNA and DNA-vaccines, an advanced approach which uses genetically modified RNA or DNA to generate a protein which then safely generates an immune response. (i.e the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines)
    Which vaccines are available for COVID-19 at the moment in Belgium?

    The European Commission negotiates, on behalf of the Member States, with pharmaceutical companies to ensure supplies to the Belgian market. Currently, the European Commission has contracts with AstraZeneca, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Sanofi-GSK, Pfizer-BioNTech, Novavax and Moderna.

    In Belgium, the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Janssen Pharmaceutica (J&J) are currently available for basic vaccination and as booster vaccine. Novavax’s vaccine is also available, but it does not yet have a marketing authorization for use as a booster. However, a physician may decide that it is appropriate to administer it to an individual patient. This is called ‘off label’ use.

    Currently (September 2022) however, the vaccine from Novavax is no longer available. Alternatively, J&J’s vaccine can be used. In the course of the autumn it may also be possible to use the new vaccine from GSK/Sanofi.

    All vaccines recognized in Belgium can be found here (‘Test Certificate or recovery certificate or vaccination certificate’): https://dofi.ibz.be/en/themes/covid-19/international-travels

    What are the different types of vaccines?

    Scientists have developed various types of vaccine to combat COVID-19. All these vaccines target our immune systems safely in order to ‘train’ it to fight coronavirus. The body is thus prepared for a genuine coronavirus infection.

    Different types of potential COVID-19 vaccines are under development:

    1. Inactivated or weakened virus vaccines, which use a form of the virus that is inactivated or weakened so that it does not cause the illness but does generate an immune response.
    2. Protein-based vaccines, which use harmless fragments of protein or protein casings which mimic the COVID-19 virus in order to generate an immune response.
    3. Viral vector vaccines, which use a virus that is genetically modified so it cannot cause illness, but does produce coronavirus proteins to safely generate an immune response.
    4. RNA and DNA-vaccines, an advanced approach which uses genetically modified RNA or DNA to generate a protein which then safely generates an immune response.
    Is the vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory?
    • No. As with most vaccines in our country, vaccination against COVID-19 is voluntary.
    • The vaccination is offered free of charge in Belgium.
    How many doses of the vaccine do I need?

    A booster vaccine is now provided for all Belgian residents from 5 years old, with one single injection. More information about this can be found in the questions further down.

    For basic vaccination, most vaccines (from Pfizer/BioNtech, Moderna and Novavax) are provided with 2 doses. These are given a few weeks apart. Only 1 dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine needs to be administered. The second basic vaccination will be done with the same vaccine as the first dose.

    For children aged 6 months to 4 years, the basic vaccination is done with a pediatric Pfizer vaccine. This basic schedule consists of 3 doses, with an interval of approximately 3 weeks between the first 2 doses and with the 3rd dose 2 months after the 2nd dose.

    All vaccines are registered in Vaccinnet with name and lot number. You will also receive a vaccination card after vaccination, stating which vaccine you have been vaccinated with.

    Do I need a vaccine if I've already had COVID-19?
    As the protection after contracting COVID-19 lasts for a few months, and cases of reinfections have now been established, vaccines will also be offered to people who have had COVID-19. It is expected that protection after vaccination will last for longer than protection after catching the virus, but that is still being investigated at the moment. In any case, the vaccines offer wider protection against certain variants than an infection does.
    How are the effectiveness and the side effects from the vaccine monitored?
    Once the vaccine has been approved by the European Medicines Agency, and enters the European market, a leaflet will be developed for the public at large (found in the pack with the vaccine). There is also a so-called scientific leaflet that is provided to doctors and similar. This has now been completed for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The Belgian Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FMAHP) will publish the leaflets on its website (www.faff-afmps.be) once they are available in our three languages and a few additional languages.
    Where can we see how many people have already been vaccinated?

    The Sciensano website provides a daily update of the number of vaccinated people in our country: https://datastudio.google.com/embed/u/0/reporting/c14a5cfc-cab7-4812-848c-0369173148ab/page/hOMwB

    Specifically for Flanders, you can visit the Vaccination Counter: https://www.laatjevaccineren.be/vaccinatieteller

    Do I need to be tested before I am given the vaccine?
    No, you do not need to be tested for the virus (PCR) or antibodies before the vaccination. Even if you are infected without knowing it, the vaccine can be safely administered. Antibodies will also not be measured after the vaccination. After all, as it stands we do not know how many antibodies we need to be protected.
    When is it better to delay your vacccination?
    • If you have symptoms of an illness, with or without a fever (>38.5°C), you can be vaccinated once you have recovered (for illness as a result of COVID-19, see below).
    • If you have a COVID-19 infection or have tested positive for COVID-19, you can be vaccinated from the 14th day after you have recovered, or from the 14th day after a positive PCR test if you have had an asymptomatic infection.
    • If you are in quarantine, vaccination will be postponed until the quarantine period is over.
    • If you have had a severe case of COVID-19 and have been treated with a high dosage of systematic corticosteroids, it is advisable to postpone the vaccination until at least 4 weeks after you have stopped this treatment, because corticosteroids suppress the immune response. ¨* If you have had a severe case of COVID-19 and have been treated with monoclonal anti-COVID-19 antibodies or plasma with anti-COVID-19 antibodies (passive immunity), you must wait for 2 to 3 months after your treatment, due to the potentially insufficient immune response because of circulating antibodies.
    • A planned medical intervention under general anaesthetic is grounds for postponing a vaccination. A minimum interval of 48 hours is advised between a general anaesthetic and vaccination. No such interval applies after a local anaesthetic.
    Can I choose what vaccine I get?
    We know that protection lasts for a few months after vaccination and then decreases after that, but current vaccines still protect well against severe COVID-19 with an estimated protection against hospitalization between 80 and 90%. However, we must take into account the arrival of new variants against which the initial vaccination may be less effective. For that reason, a booster vaccination is currently being offered, so that the immune system is strengthened again.
    How long does a vaccine protect you against COVID-19?
    During an infection, the virus attacks part of our immune system, which partly compromises antibody formation. Therefore the situation after virus infection and the situation after a vaccination are not the same. We know that the protection after infection lasts a few months, and we expect the protection after vaccination will be longer. Follow-up studies on some people who have been vaccinated should soon give us more clarity on this.
    Is it currently useful to use a blood test to check whether your body has produced enough antibodies after vaccination?

    Antibody tests or serological tests currently do not say enough about the possible protection your body has built up after a corona vaccination. There are several pitfalls:

    • At the moment we do not know from which concentration of antibodies you are protected. The test can tell whether you have antibodies and how many you have, but no one can tell you whether there are enough.
    • Not all antibodies produced are equally effective. To eliminate the virus, you need neutralizing or disease-preventing antibodies. Not all commonly available antibody tests can distinguish such antibodies from others.
    • Antibodies can also disappear from the blood over time, but that does not mean that you have lost all protection. Immunity is not only achieved by antibodies, but also by immune cells. These are not detected with the serological tests. In addition, there may also be memory immunity.

    Conclusion: The immunity that someone builds up after an infection or after vaccination is too complex to be able to make a good estimate using one test at the moment. These tests only show part of the story.

    Who is eligible for a booster vaccination?

    1. People with lowered immunity

    The available data indicate that persons with reduced immunity, caused by a certain condition or by treatment, may be less protected after primary vaccination course with 1 or 2 doses. Recent scientific data shows that in these immunocompromised patients, an additional dose of mRNA vaccine (currently Pfizer or Moderna) can improve the immune response. In Belgium, it was decided to invite these extra vulnerable patients for an extra vaccination dose, in order to optimize their protection against COVID-19.

    This concerns approximately 350,000 patients with:

    • congenital immune disorders
    • chronic kidney dialysis
    • inflammatory diseases treated with immunosuppressants
    • blood cancers or other malignant tumors, which are/or have been in active treatment in the past 3 years
    • pretransplant, stem cell transplant and organ transplant patients
    • HIV patients whose CD4 cell count is less than 200 per mm³ of blood
    • Down syndrome (they are added by the GP. More information: https://www.info-coronavirus.be/nl/vaccinatie-professionelen/#zorgverlener (in Dutch or French)
    • who are being treated with certain biosimilars. For more information, see here, in French

    Attention! This group is not the same as the people who were called up in the spring as a risk person or person with underlying suffering. The group with reduced immunity is much smaller than the group that was called up in the spring.

    2. the residents of nursing homes

    When? min 4 weeks after the last vaccine

    1. everyone who has been vaccinated with the Janssen vaccine When? min 2 weeks after vaccination

    4.People of 65 years and older

    5. Patients in assisted living apartments, day care centres, psychogeriatric facilities and psychiatric care homes

    When?

    • min 4 months after last dose AZ and J&J
    • min 6 months after 2nd dose of Pfizer or Moderna

    You can find more information here: https://d34j62pglfm3rr.cloudfront.net/downloads/tekst-extraprik-september_EN.pdf

    I think I'm eligible for a booster, but did not receive an invitation (yet)?

    Vulnerable persons with a reduced immunity who are eligible for a booster vaccination are invited on the basis of the data from their sickness fund, the Cancer Registry and/or general practitioner. That selection is done automatically.

    You can check for yourself whether you belong to this group via www.myhealthviewer.be or www.mijngezondheid.belgie.be/www.masante.be. If applicable, you will see a new activation in September at the top, that is the extra vaccine. Your previous vaccinations are listed below.

    Are you not on the list and do you think you are at risk ? There may be several reasons why you have not yet received an invitation:

    • Your initial vaccination schedule (1st and eventually 2nd shot) has not yet been completed. In that case, contact your vaccination center to finalize the vaccination schedule.
    • Your last shot was administered less than 28 days ago. Wait for your invitation until 4 weeks after the last dose.
    • Your immunity problem is recent, is not being treated medically, is only followed up by a specialist… Then contact your general practitioner twho can add you to the list.
    Why should I have a booster vaccine this fall?

    With the restart after the summer and of the schools, we expect an increase in people with COVID, like last year. Projections from Hasselt University/UAntwerp show that this wave will peak from mid-October 2022. By then we want to have given the majority of the booster vaccinations, so that as many people as possible are protected against severe COVID-19.

    Studies showed that the first booster already protected very well, but that this protection decreased after a few months, first against infection, later also against hospitalization and death. Hence the need to ‘boost’ our immune system again. In this way, as many people as possible are protected against a serious form of COVID-19, and our healthcare system is not overloaded. By having yourself boosted, you also protect the vulnerable people in your environment.

    Who is eligible for a fall booster?

    With the prospect of a new COVID-19 peak this autumn, the Ministers of Health have decided, based on the advice of the Superior Health Council and the Vaccination Task Force, to give everyone aged 18 and older the opportunity to get an ‘autumn booster’. ‘, this time with a adapted vaccine.

    The Fall Booster is highly recommended for those working in the healthcare sector and for those most at risk for severe COVID-19:

    • everyone from 50 years old.
    • People with weakened immunity

    People who have already received a booster in the previous months can have themselves vaccinated again this autumn, if a period of 3 months is left between the previous booster. . In September, an autumn booster was offered to staff from the entire healthcare sector, including primary care, residential care centers, hospitals, etc. After that, the age group from 50 to 64 years was actively invited, in decreasing age. People between 18 and 50 years old can then offer themselves on a voluntary basis, according to the modalities of their state. Flanders and Ost Belgien actively invite everyone from the age of 18 to an autumn booster.

    Additional scientific data is still awaited for children and young people. An exception to this are the interns in care institutions, who are also eligible for an extra injection in their internship, and the vulnerable under-18s.

    This fall campaign is expected to last 2 to 3 months.

    Is it a problem that the booster with Pfizer or Moderna is different from my previous vaccination?

    No, this is not a problem.

    Regardless of the type of vaccine given with the first and second shot, a vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna (mRNA vaccine) will be administered for an additional dose. Scientific research shows that an extra dose of mRNA can improve the immune response in patients with reduced immunity.

    Is the booster mandatory?

    No, this is not mandatory, but it is highly recommended for :

    • healthcare professionals
    • everyone from 50 years old.
    • People with weakened immunity

    provided that their previous vaccine was administered at least three months ago.

    Is it useful to also get a booster after a corona infection?

    There is currently no scientific evidence that after a corona infection you are better protected against the corona virus than after vaccination. After being infected, most people will develop immunity for a short period of time, but there is no consensus on how long it will last. The duration and extent to which you are immune can also vary from person to person. For example, people admitted to hospital due to a COVID infection often have better immunity than people with only mild symptoms. We do know that infection with the coronavirus entails risks that you can largely avoid thanks to vaccination. Recent Belgian figures show that vaccines protect very well against hospitalization. “In the group of 18-64 year olds, there are 14 times fewer intensive care admissions among vaccinated people. Among the over-55s, there are proportionally more unvaccinated people in hospitals and in intensive care because of corona in absolute numbers.

    Large sources of infection also do not necessarily provide herd immunity against the virus afterwards. This is according to an October 2020 study from the investigation of donated blood in the Brazilian city of Manaus. Of all residents of this city, 76% were infected with the corona virus. A few months later, the city again had to deal with a corona wave. The previous wave of infection had therefore not led to herd immunity.

    In our country, the recovery certificate (the CST after a positive corona test) is now valid for 5 months. However, it has not been proven that you are immune during this entire period. The duration was chosen to be able to draw a line somewhere, because there is still uncertainty about the duration of immunity after infection.

    It is also not yet known exactly how long people are protected against COVID-19 after vaccination, but we do see a decrease in immunity after a few months. That is why a booster vaccine is now being offered to all citizens in our country. The booster vaccine is usually given from 14 days after the corona symptoms have disappeared, or at least 14 days after the positive test, if there are no complaints.

    I think I am entitled to a booster vaccine, but I have not (yet) received an invitation.
    • people who stay in a residential care center
    Are the booster vaccines adapted to Omikron?

    Yes, we will again be using the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. Beginning in September, they will provide us with bivalent, modified vaccines. It means that they are active against the original Wuhan variant and against an Omikron variant.

    The purpose of these modified vaccines is not so much to protect us specifically against an Omikron variant, but to prepare our immunity well for future variants in general. So they should broaden our immunity.

    The modified vaccines can only be used as a booster, not for basic vaccination. For a basic vaccination, the original vaccines must still be used.

    The modified vaccines were approved by the EMA (European Medicines Agency) on September 1. If the vaccines are delivered on time, we expect to start the campaign nationwide in the second week of September.

    I am a healthcare professional. When will I get a fall booster?

    In August, all healthcare providers still had the opportunity to obtain a 2° booster with the current vaccine. In addition, they have the certainty that they can receive an adapted vaccine later, at least 3 months after their 2nd booster.

    Those who did not take up this offer will be individually invited from mid-September for the autumn campaign to receive an adapted vaccine.

    I got another booster before or during the summer. Am I still eligible for an autumn booster?
    The people who had already been boosted in the summer with an original vaccine, such as some of the residents of residential care centers, the over-80s and healthcare professionals, are already well protected. They are eligible again for a next booster with a minimum interval of 3 months, this time with an adapted vaccine.
    How much time should there be between the autumn booster and other vaccinations (eg flu, monkey pox)?
    An interval of 2 weeks is best respected between the booster and a vaccination against monkey pox. A vaccine against the flu or pneumococci can be administered at the same time as a COVID booster, in the other arm.

Is the corona vaccine safe?

    How have the COVID-19 vaccines been developed?

    COVID-19 vaccines have been developed in accordance with the same legal requirements around pharmaceutical quality, safety and efficacy as all other medications.

    1.    In the first phase, the developer subjects the vaccine to **strict tests**, which check the quality of the vaccine, namely its purity, ingredients and production process. 
      
    2.    Secondly, a **scientific evaluation** is carried out by regulatory bodies: the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and other regulators in EU/EEA countries. 
      
    3.    Next, the effect of the vaccine is tested by the developer through **lab research and animal testing**.
      
    4.    If it works as desired, the vaccine is **tested on human volunteers**. This happens in 3 clinical test phases, each one with greater numbers of participants than the previous phase. This testing programme must be approved by a Committee for Medical Ethics and must be implemented in accordance with the procedures and protocols established by the regulators. 
      
    5.    At the end of the testing programme, the developer presents the results to the **European Medicines Agency (EMA)**. The EMA only gives approval if it has been provided with sound scientific evidence showing that the benefits of a vaccine are greater than its risks.
      

    What is different for COVID-19 vaccines is that the development and approval process has been prioritised at all levels because of the urgent public health situation, and therefore it has happened more quickly. For example, difference phases in the development have been allowed to overlap: phase 3 studies have been started in parallel with phase 2 studies. That does not mean that the vaccines are less safe. They have also been tested on a large target group. The EMA has a special expert taskforce, and has prioritised the evaluation procedures for COVID-19 vaccines. As a result, the applications from companies are evaluated quickly, but the scientific recommendations remain well founded.

    Video: how vaccines are approved in Europe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDE4Fo1PFxE&list=PL7X6T30850OjZbJzHD00NA9hnk8X7i406

    Video: How the European Medicines Agency (EMA) evaluates medicines for human usehttps://www.ema.europa.eu/en/about-us/what-we-do/authorisation-medicines/how-ema-evaluates-medicines

    How safe are vaccines that have been developed so quickly?

    The speed of development of the COVID-19 vaccines has been primarily determined by the extent to which all activities have been prioritised: from the initial development and the recommendations of ethical committees or regulatory authorities, to the implementation of vaccine studies in the research centres in various counties. As COVID-19 vaccine studies have continually been given priority, years have been saved, without jeopardising the quality of these studies or the safety of the vaccines. All regulatory decisions on the approval of vaccines are based on extensive tests, which give sufficiently robust data to guarantee quality, effectiveness and patient safety. This is no different for COVID-19 vaccines. The scientific experts who evaluate vaccines always look very closely at the advantages and potential risks, especially because vaccines are given to healthy people. Every batch of vaccines is continually checked to ensure that they remain safe and effective.

    Read more about the development and testing of coronavirus vaccines: https://www.laatjevaccineren.be/ontwikkelen-en-testen-van-coronavaccins

    How could a safe, workable and quality vaccine be developed quicker than usual?

    With respect to COVID-19, the development and possible approval of a vaccine has been given priority on all levels due to the public health emergency; the process has therefore been much quicker than normal.

    • Production: The producer was allowed to overlap the various development phases for the vaccines; i.e. phase 3 studies could start at the same time as phase 2 studies. This does not mean that the vaccines are less safe though as each phase has been completed correctly. Like all medicines, COVID-19 vaccines are tested in a laboratory and in pre-clinical and clinical trials (phases 1, 2 and 3). At every step of the way, the same strict requirements have been applied as for other medicines. They have also been tested on a broad target group.
    • Approval: The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has engaged a taskforce of specialists to give priority to the COVID-19 evaluation procedures. Requests from companies are thus rapidly evaluated and robust, scientific advice can be assured.
    • Worldwide: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the development of COVID-19 vaccines have been prioritised across the globe.
    • Extensive experience and expertise: the development of vaccines against COVID-19 will also be accelerated by the expertise accumulated over the past few years in relation to the development of vaccines for other SARS/coronaviruses. Some companies and research institutes have been able to build on existing constructions to make their vaccine.
    • More resources: additionally, more resources have been mobilised and pooled from the outset, whereas in a normal development these are spread over a longer period of time (both in the pharmaceutical companies and in the competent authorities).

    The process of development and approval of COVID-19 vaccines is, therefore, more efficient. No important steps have been skipped in the evaluation and these vaccines must meet the same requirements as all other vaccines. Only when there is sufficient evidence that a vaccine is safe, effective and of a good quality, will a positive opinion for its market authorisation be issued.

    It has been developed so quickly, is there any certainty about long-term side effects?
    A vaccine is only approved if its quality, effectiveness and safety have been satisfactorily proven. That is why clinical studies are so important. In the last phase (phase 3), the vaccine is tested on large groups of people, often tens of thousands. For the coronavirus vaccines the numbers have been even greater: between 20,000 and 60,000 people, of whom half have received the candidate vaccine and half a placebo. Such studies allow us to see if there are any side effects, and if so what they are. Most side effects can be seen within 6 weeks after vaccination, so they are picked up during clinical trials. Therefore the chance of serious side effects from a vaccine that has been approved is small. However, we can never rule it out altogether. This is true not only for COVID-19 vaccines, but all vaccines and medicines. That is why we keep an eye on vaccines after they have been approved. A special monitoring system has been set up to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, which will allow us to intervene quickly where necessary.
    What are the side effects of the vaccines?
    Just like other vaccinations, we observe local and general side effects. These increase slightly after the administration of the second dose but disappear within 48 hours. The side effects comprise pain, redness and muscle stiffness in the injection site, and for some people a mild fever, fatigue, headache and nausea. The side effects respond well to paracetamol.
    What about serious side effects?
    Once a vaccine has been approved, the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP) continues to monitor this vaccine and studies on it. This is just the same as for other medicines or vaccines, because every medicine or vaccine has side effects — normally mild, or only short term. If someone experiences side effects following their vaccination that are not stated in the patient information leaflet (package insert), this can be reported to the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP). Experts from the FAMHP evaluate the side effects, and their findings are shared across the world. By bringing data together on a large scale, potential indicators will be discovered more quickly. If an uncommon side effect is experienced with a medicine or vaccine, or if there is an issue with its quality, the FAMHP will evaluate this and take action where necessary, e.g. by modifying the patient information leaflet or warning care providers. In the most serious cases, the medicine or vaccine will be withdrawn from the market.
    I am allergic or already had a very severe reaction after a COVID vaccine. Can I still be vaccinated?

    Someone who has already been vaccinated against, for example, the flu or childhood diseases has no medical reason not to be vaccinated against COVID-19. After all, the risk of a serious reaction after vaccination is many times smaller than the risk of serious complications from an infection with COVID-19. This certainly applies to people with a higher risk of severe COVID-19, including people over 65, cancer patients, transplant patients and people with autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and lupus.

    The vaccines themselves contain no preservatives, and the vial cap does not contain latex. People who are allergic to latex can therefore safely receive the vaccine. Just having an allergy does not necessarily indicate an increased risk.

    Only in case of allergy to polyethylene glycol (PEG), polysorbate or other components of the corona vaccines, a physician is best consulted.beforehand. This is also the case if you already had an immediate or severe (allergic) reaction after your first COVID-19 vaccine. Your GP can refer you to one of the official reference doctors, with expertise in allergology. This reference doctor can usually find a solution to vaccinate you in the hospital: a different corona vaccine is then used, without the ingredient to which you are allergic, such as the Novavax vaccine. The vaccine can then be administered under medical supervision. In some cases, the vaccine is administered in smaller doses over a period of 2 to 3 hours (desensitization). The Novavax vaccine is injected into the upper arm in 2 doses 3 weeks apart.

    The Nuvaxovid (Novavax) vaccine is currently (September 2022) unavailable. Alternatively, the Janssen (J&J) vaccine can be administered, which is still available and has been recognized as a booster.

    Do you have systemic mastocytosis or hereditary angioedema (2 rare, hereditary disorders)? Contact your physician. He will take the necessary actions for your vaccination.

    Does vaccination disrupt the menstrual cycle?

    Several testimonials have been circulating on social media linking vaccination with menstrual cycle disorders. However, it is difficult to say for sure whether there is a causal relationship with the vaccine.

    Menstrual cycle disorders can depend on many factors: stress, changes in eating habits, very intense exercise, depression, thyroid abnormalities, gynecological disorders (including endometriosis, which affects 6 to 10% of women, or polycystic ovarian syndrome) or the use of medicines. At the same time, the FAMHP (Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products) reports only about a hundred reports of this type of disorders for the vaccines currently in use with us.

    So we have a wide variety of causes for a very common condition in combination with low reporting in the monitoring system. While we cannot rule out a link in some cases, there is currently no statistical evidence. This is a specific case in which we find it difficult to distinguish between just co-occurrence or a true causal relationship.

    If you suspect a link between vaccination and the cycle disorder, it is important to report this via https://www.fagg.be/nl/effet_indesirable

    Can vaccination against COVID-19 reduce my fertility?

    When you go through COVID-19 or get vaccinated, you develop antibodies against the coronavirus protrusions. There is hardly any similarity between the protein of those protrusions and a protein that plays a role in the formation of the placenta in early pregnancy (syncytin-1).

    That similarity is too small to have any effect on the placenta. If that were the case, then also banal coronaviruses, which cause colds, would affect fertility, because all coronaviruses have the same minimal similarity. And this is not observed at all. So there is no cause for alarm. The pregnancy statistics in the US also confirm this.

    The vaccines also have no impact on male fertility.

    Read the advice of the CSS(15/4/21): https://www.health.belgium.be/sites/default/files/uploads/fields/fpshealth_theme_file/20210422_hgr-9622_vaccinatie_zwangere_borstvoeding_vrouw_vweb_1.pdf

    Watch the video of Dr Isabelle Dehaene, gynecologist UZ Gent: https://d34j62pglfm3rr.cloudfront.net/downloads/02_NL_VaccinerenBijZwangerschap.

    I am pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Should I get vaccinated?

    Contrary to previous recommendations, and based on the most recent scientific data and recommendations, the Superior Health Council states that all pregnant women should ideally be vaccinated as a priority (phase 1b of the campaign). This is because, especially in the 3rd trimester, they are at an increased risk of severe COVID-19 and preterm delivery. The available COVID-19 mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) can be safely given to them.

    If the pregnant woman suffers from conditions such as elevated BMI before pregnancy, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc., that is an additional argument for recommending vaccination. This is also the case with an increased risk of contamination, such as with healthcare providers.

    There is no increased reporting rate of adverse events in pregnant women after vaccination. In case of fever up to 24-48 hours after vaccination, the SHC recommends paracetamol according to the recommended dose (https://www.bcfi.be/nl/chapters/9?frag=6437). If the fever persists or if other symptoms appear, the patient should consult her doctor.

    If you are pregnant and want to be vaccinated as a priority, it is best to contact your doctor. He/she can add you to the priority list (not your gynaecologist or midwife). Once this is done, you will automatically receive an invitation from your vaccination center where you will be vaccinated with a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

    I am pregnant. What is the risk with mild side effects after vaccination (fever, headache, ...) and what can I do?
    The risk of these side effects is neither higher nor lower than in the general population. These can be combated with paracetamol, especially in the first trimester where there is a possible association between fever/hyperthermia and miscarriage. In the third trimester of pregnancy, the risk of complications from fever after vaccination is virtually non-existent.
    Can the vaccine harm my unborn baby?

    There is no evidence that when a pregnant woman receives the vaccine, this vaccine crosses the placenta and reaches the fetus. By the way, no immune response is observed in the fetus after vaccination of the mother. Vaccines do not have more side effects in pregnant women than in non-pregnant women, and vaccination during pregnancy does not lead to more premature deliveries or other complications compared to the period before Covid-19.

    An infection with the coronavirus during pregnancy can have negative consequences for both mother and child. On the one hand, pregnant women run a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19 than non-pregnant women. We mainly diagnose severe pneumonia, sometimes requiring artificial respiration. The possible explanation for this is that the lung capacity is reduced by the place that the baby occupies. At the same time, we are seeing more preeclampsia in Covid-19 infections during pregnancy. This is a serious pregnancy complication that is dangerous for mother and child.

    Due to Covid-19 caused pneumonia or preeclampsia, the gynecologist may be required to perform a Caesarean section, to treat the mother, or because the baby is in distress. A cesarean section is not a risk-free operation.

    The unborn child can then be in distress again because the placenta functions less well because of the inflammation caused by the coronavirus in the mother. As a result, the baby may develop stunted growth or lack of oxygen. There are also more premature deliveries in case of an infection with the corona virus.

    If the baby is born prematurely due to a premature delivery or caesarean section, for example after 6 or 7 months of pregnancy, it is at greater risk of respiratory and digestive problems, infections and even brain haemorrhages, which can lead to disability later on.

    What is the benefit for my baby if I get vaccinated during pregnancy?

    Newborn babies are protected against infectious diseases for several months by the antibodies they receive from their mother through the placenta and breast milk. A vaccinated breastfeeding mother also passes her antibodies on to her baby. This gives the baby a big extra advantage, because his immune system is still immature.

    Vaccination of pregnant women is therefore not only harmless for the child, there are also no serious side effects for the pregnancy and it ensures that the child is better protected during the first months of life, when it is most vulnerable. Studies in breastfeeding women and pregnant women who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 show that this also applies to this vaccination. All pregnant women should therefore be vaccinated against Covid-19 as a priority, regardless of the gestational age.

    Can I have the vaccine if I am breastfeeding?
    If you are breastfeeding, you can be given the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. You do not have to stop breastfeeding. Although there are no scientific studies on the safety of these vaccines for the nursing baby, it is assumed that these vaccines are safe as there is no live virus involved and because the vaccine components are broken down very quickly in the woman’s body. Read the recommendation of the Superior Health Council for vaccinating pregnant women, women wishing to conceive and breastfeeding mothers against SARS-CoV-2 using an mRNA vaccine https://www.health.belgium.be/en/report-9622-vaccination-against-covid-19-pregnant-women
    Do some vaccines change your DNA?
    No. mRNA vaccines are administered intramuscularly and the mRNA is taken up by a number of human cells. However, the mRNA does not enter the cell’s nucleus and so does not come into contact with human DNA. The mRNA is a code that is read to produce a protein, the S protein. The human cell can decipher the code and therefore does not require the intervention of its DNA. After deciphering, the human cell will produce the S protein, so that our immune system is able to produce antibodies that specifically act against the S protein. The mRNA disappears from our bodies after a few hours.
    Will the vaccine protect me if the virus mutates?
    Viruses are constantly mutating, which means that part of the genetic material in the virus changes. This happens at different speeds for different viruses. Mutations do not necessarily influence how well a vaccine works against a virus. For example, for the variant that is currently increasing in the UK at a dramatic rate, and that has now also spread to many other countries, initial data on the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines shows that the vaccine-induced antibodies can neutralise this variant. For the South African variant, these 3 vaccines score less in terms of effectiveness. This is currently subject to further investigation. Some vaccines remain effective many years after they have been developed and provide long-term protection, such as the measles and rubella vaccines. On the other hand, virus strains for illnesses such as flu change so often and to such an extent that the vaccine’s composition must be updated every year so that it continues to be effective. The scientific community and supervisory bodies will monitor to see if the coronavirus changes over time and if the vaccines can provide protection from infection with the new variants.
    How much time must I leave between the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines?

    Previously, it was recommended never to administer COVID-19 vaccines together with or shortly before or after another vaccine. This was out of caution when these vaccines were very new and their safety and efficacy were not yet well known. This attitude may change now that there is much more data on the safety of the vaccines used.

    The COVID-19 vaccine can be administered at the same time as the flu vaccine, the pneumococcal vaccine, the whooping cough vaccine and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. When multiple vaccines are administered in one visit, each dose is given at a different injection site in the muscle or in different parts of the body.

    An interval of 2 weeks is best respected between a COVID-19 vaccine and a vaccination against monkey pox.

    I am chronically ill, how do I know whether I am eligible for vaccination?
    In Phase 3 clinical trials, the results of several patients with chronic diseases (diabetes, pulmonary disease, etc.) were analysed. The analysis of these groups will allow us to provide more specific responses later on. That is why an individual analysis of the benefits and risks must always be made for each patient. (zou ik weglaten) Just under 50% of participants in Pfizer’s COVID19 Phase 3 vaccination trial had a co-morbidity. The side-effects and efficacy (with the exception of people with cancer) in this group were very similar to those of the participants without co-morbidity. However, not all chronic diseases are represented in clinical trials.
    Can I donate blood if I've been infected with the virus or if I have been vaccinated?
    For more information, see the website of the Belgian Red Cross https://www.donneurdesang.be/en/covid19

    Allergy in itself is not a reason not to get vaccinated.

    Have you ever had an immediate or severe allergic reaction after a previous vaccine or needed urgent medical attention after taking a medicine? Your doctor will assess your allergies. He can then consult the guidelines here: https://www.info-coronavirus.be/nl/vaccinatie-professionelen/#zorgverlen (in Dutch) or https://www.info-coronavirus.be/fr/vaccination/#professio (in French). If necessary, your doctor will refer you for evaluation to an allergist or for vaccination in a hospital.

    Do you have systemic mastocytosis or hereditary angioedema (2 rare, hereditary disorders)? Be sure to discuss this with your doctor.Contact your doctor. He will take the necessary actions for your vaccination.

    The vaccines themselves contain no preservatives. The cap of the vaccine vial is not made of latex. People with a latex allergy can therefore safely receive the vaccine.

    Does a corona vaccine weaken your immune system?
    The corona vaccines do not make you less resistant or more susceptible to other diseases. A vaccine activates the immune response in our body and then makes antibodies that protect us (to a large extent) against the specific virus. Such a vaccine will not weaken your immune system and thus will not increase the risk of other diseases. The corona measures taken may have weakened our immunity against other diseases. By seeing fewer people for a year and a half, frequently disinfecting hands and keeping our distance, we may have become more susceptible to other viruses and bacteria. Our immune system is currently less trained and there is a chance that it will respond a bit more slowly to an infection. You can then become a bit sicker and it can take a little longer before you are healed.

Who will get the vaccine and when?

    Will there be enough vaccines for everyone?
    • The vaccines will be produced continuously and quantity available will increase as they are delivered.
    • Pending their large-scale production, several steps should be planned to best protect the most vulnerable groups and gradually increase individual immunity. (see question hereunder ‘who is included in the priority groups?')
    Will there be enough vaccines for everyone?
    • Vaccines will be produced continuously and the available quantities will increase as deliveries take place. Over time, there will be enough vaccines for everyone.
    • While waiting for production in large quantities, various steps must be planned in so that the most vulnerable groups can be protected and individual immunity is gradually increased.
    Will the vaccine be immediately available to everyone?
    • No. Vaccines will be produced continuously and the available quantities will increase as deliveries take place. While waiting for production in large quantities, various steps must be planned in so that the most vulnerable groups can be protected and individual immunity is gradually increased. (Read more under question 4 ‘Which are the priority groups?")
    • At the moment, it is hard to say precisely when vaccines will be provided. That is why the gradual provision of the vaccine to priority groups is vital.
    Can everyone be vaccinated at the same time?
    • No. Vaccines will be produced continuously and the available quantities will increase as deliveries take place. While waiting for production in large quantities, various steps must be planned in so that the most vulnerable groups can be protected and individual immunity is gradually increased. (Read more under question ‘Which are the priority groups?")
    In what order is the vaccination done? Who is included in the priority groups?

    In order to expand the immunity of the population and protect the most vulnerable people against the virus, the vaccination must take place over three phases, depending on the number of available doses.

    GROUP 1a

    In the first instance, the most vulnerable and exposed people will receive the vaccine.

    • Residents and employees in residential care centres and collective care institutions: since the outbreak of the pandemic, COVID-19 has hit the elderly particularly hard, principally those in residential care centres. They will be vaccinated first, then the corresponding staff (including volunteers), followed by collective care institutions.
    • Medical personnel from first-line care and hospitals: they are in close contact with COVID-19 patients every day. To protect them, they will be prioritised for vaccination.
    • The other staff in hospitals and healthcare centres will be vaccinated, including organisations which work in prevention activities, such as vaccination centres and cancer screening centres, Child and Family and ONE.

    GROUP 1b : vulnerable people without acute medical issues, but at high risk

    In this phase, priority was given to people outside hospitals, who are at the highest risk. It concerns the following groups:

    • People over the age of 65 : people older than 65 will be a priority in this phase. We have started with the oldest people and then go down through the age groups.
    • Patients aged 18 to 64 with: • chronic kidney disease present for at least 3 months • chronic liver disease present for at least 6 months • haematological cancers (eg leukemia) • down syndrome • transplant patients (including those on the waiting list) • impaired immune system i.e. suffer from an immunodeficiency or take immunosuppressants • active HIV/AIDS • Some rare diseases belonging to the official lists of rare diseases

    Patients aged 45 to 64 with: • Chronic severe respiratory disease • chronic cardiovascular disease • obesity (obesity) with BMI ≥ 30 • diabetes type I and II • chronic nervous system disorders • dementia • cancer (tumours) no more than 5 years ago • elevated blood pressure at least 14O mmHG systolic or at least 90 mmHg diastolic

    • Pregnant women: to be vaccinated as a priority, they must contact their regular GP. Only their GP can add them. Pregnant women who do not yet have a GP should consult one.

    • Critical functions: In this phase people who fulfill an essential function will be vaccinated. This concerns a limited group of public order services with high-risk contacts (i.e. the intervention units of the police).

    • penitentiary officers

    • (para)olympic athletes and the Red Devils who participated in the European Championship

    • People aged 12 to 18 with the following risk factors (since June 2021, see below for procedure): *chronic kidney disease for at least 3 months *chronic liver disease for at least 6 months *haematological cancers (eg leukemia) *down syndrome *transplant patients (including those on the waiting list) *impaired immune system i.e. suffering from immunodeficiency or use of immunosuppressants *active HIV/AIDS *Some rare disorders (see Orphanet list: https://www.orpha.net/consor/cgi-bin/Disease_Search_List.php?lng=EN).

    GROUP 2 - broader population from 12 years old

    .

    In this phase, it is likely that the vaccine will be stored and administered like other vaccines (e.g. flu).

    I have a chronic sickness, how do I know if I can be vaccinated?
    • In Phase 3 of the clinical studies, the results from various patients with chronic diseases (diabetes, lung disease and so on) were analysed. Just under 50% of the participants in the Pfizer COVID-19 phase 3 vaccination study had a co-morbidity. The side effects and effectiveness (with the exception of people with cancer) were very similar to participants without co-morbidity. Not all chronic diseases, however, were represented in the clinical studies.
    • In order to know which people with chronic diseases will be prioritised for vaccination, the Belgian Health Council will issue a recommendation which will then be published.
    Do you need to be vaccinated if you have developed COVID-19 and/or you are HIV-positive?
    • At the moment, there is no certainty as to whether someone who has already had COVID-19 has immunity against the disease.
    • There are unfortunately some reports of reinfection and it is currently impossible to say how long you remain immune once you have had the virus.
    • Vaccination is not mandatory but it means you are protecting yourself and others. Vaccines train the immune system, in case it has to face the actual virus again. This prepares the body and the immune system for a (repeat) viral infection.
    • It is also impossible to check everyone to see if they have antibodies against COVID-19 in their blood as part of the vaccine roll-out.
    • Phase 3 of the clinical studies encompass many target groups, including HIV-positive people. Analyses of the various groups in detail will be presented and analysed by the regulatory bodies. The phase 3 trials of Pfizer and Moderna also included COVID-19 positive participants with a similar side-effect profile as the COVID-19 negative participants.
    I am a informal caregiver, trainee or PAB-Assistant. When will I be vaccinated?
    If you work as an informal caregiver, trainee or PAB-assistant in a care facility, you can be vaccinated when it is the turn of care providers from your facility. If you work as a private, informal caregiver or PAB-assistant, you will be vaccinated along with the rest of the broader public.
    My family member resides in a care home and is unable to provide informed consent. May I provide my consent?

    Just like other vaccinations, consent for a person who is unable to provide their own informed consent will be requested from one of the following people:

    • the holder of the medical power of attorney
    • the scientific representative (if the holder of the medical power of attorney is unavailable)
    • the treating physician (if the above are unavailable)
    • the coordinating and advising doctor (none of the above are available).

    The decision by the resident or the representative will be noted in the resident’s care file with the date and the way in which the consent was obtained. If the verbal consent of a competent person cannot be noted in the care file with any certainty (e.g. there is disagreement within the family), you are advised to document the consent in writing.

    What is the procedure to follow for the vaccination of the 12-15 year old?
    I am pregnant. What do I have to do to get priority to be vaccinated?

    Contact your GP. He/she can add you to the priority list (not your gynaecologist or midwife). Once this is done, you will automatically receive an invitation from your vaccination center where you will be vaccinated with a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Pregnant women who have already received a first dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine can safely receive their second dose of this vaccine, on schedule.

    If you are pregnant, you are at a higher risk of severe COVID-19 and premature birth if you are infected. The Superior Health Council therefore advised to vaccinate pregnant women against Covid-19 as a priority (https://www.health.belgium.be/sites/default/files/uploads/fields/fpshealth_theme_file/20210422_hgr-9622_vaccinatie_zwangere_borstvoeding_vrouw_vweb_1.pdf ) . This vaccination offers protection for both the woman herself and the unborn child against the serious consequences of an infection.

    Can children and adolescents get the vaccine? Is the authorization of the parents needed?

    In Belgium, children from 5 years old can get primo-vaccinated against COVID-19. For the practical conditions and a booster vaccine, it is best to check the website of the regio where the child lives:

    Does the child live in Flanders? see https://www.laatjevaccineren.be/5-11-jarigen (children) and https://www.laatjevaccineren.be/booster-12-17-jaar (adolescents) Does the child live in Brussels? see https://coronavirus.brussels/en/faq-vaccination/ Does the child live in Wallonia? see https://covid.aviq.be/fr/faq-vaccination#22

    Yes. The currently used vaccines against COVID-19 (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson&Johnson and Novavax) do not contain gelatin, a protein obtained from pig waste.

Vaccines in practice

    How do I know when I will be vaccinated?
    When it is your turn, you will receive a personal vaccine invitation. Via text message, letter or email. You will have the option to confirm, refuse or move your appointment. The invitation will also say where your vaccination will take place. And if you can’t access this location, for very good reasons, mobile teams may be able to vaccinate you at home.
    Can I be vaccinated by my GP?
    • At the moment, there are various possible scenarios. For phase 1a, a centralised system will be used for the vaccination of residents and staff in residential care centres (WZC), hospital personnel and 1st line healthcare workers (doctors, physiotherapists, district nurses, pharmacists, etc.) This is also the case for phase 1b, with the vaccination of the over-65s and people between 45 and 65 with co-morbidities, if they are sufficiently mobile. In phases 1b and 2, it is possible that there will be a combination of a centralised and decentralised system, with GPs becoming increasingly involved.
    • The most important reasons for a centralised system are the specific storage requirements for the vaccine, such as (extremely) low temperatures and the supply of certain vaccines in multi-dose packs. This means that, in a relatively short time span, hundreds of vaccines must be administered to groups, taking account of the coronavirus measures.
    • In line with several of our neighbouring countries, including Germany, the Netherlands and France, we will roll-out the vaccination strategy in an efficient and controlled manner. This process will use existing structures such as hospitals and vaccination centres as much as possible. In this context, a distinction will be made between phase 1a with centralised vaccination administration to high priority target groups, and phase 1b with the expansion to target groups and the broader availability of vaccines.
    • Only in phase 2 can we talk of broad vaccination for low-risk groups too. The start of each phase will be determined by the availability and characteristics of the vaccine, and the resulting consequences with respect to distribution.

    In Brussels it is now also possible to get vaccinated by your GP. If you want to be vaccinated by your GP, it is best to contact him/her to make sure that he/she carries out this medical procedure. GPs can choose whether or not to vaccinate. This is an additional workload for them that should not be underestimated.

    How will the vaccines be distributed?
    The ‘operation COVID-19 vaccination strategy’ taskforce has developed a vaccination strategy in consultation with local authorities. This strategy can be consulted via the following link: https://d34j62pglfm3rr.cloudfront.net/downloads/Note_TF_Strategy_Vaccination_NL_0312_post_press.pdf
    Will a vaccination centre be set up in my neighbourhood?
    This will be discussed with the federated entities. In Flanders, the ELZ (first line zones) will also be called to action. This will only be the case in phase 1b, when we are able to offer vaccines on a broader scale. When we will begin with phase 1b is hard to say while we have uncertainties about supply. It is not yet possible to say when phase 2 will start.
    Where are the vaccines stored?
    The vaccines are stored securely in secured locations. The precise locations are not being divulged for security reasons. Given the fact that some vaccines must be stored at an extremely low temperature, the right cooling installations are provided.An overview of the stock management of the vaccines can be found here: https://www.info-coronavirus.be/nl/dynamisch-stockbeheer-van-vaccins/
    I am less mobile. How or where can I get vaccinated?

    If you cannot or are not allowed to go to the vaccination center, home vaccination is an option.

    The general practitioners make a selection of patients/clients who are eligible for home vaccination. This selection is made on the basis of predetermined medical criteria, e.g. bed-ridden, severe physical or mental disability,…. (see the guidelines for mobile vaccination of the Vaccination Task Force (in Dutch): https://d34j62pglfm3rr.cloudfront.net/downloads/ 210526_SOP_Mobile_vaccination_V2.0_NL.pdf) You do not have to take any action yourself for this.

    Have you nevertheless received an invitation to come to a vaccination center and do you think you meet one of the above criteria? Then you can call your vaccination center, whose contact details can be found in your personal invitation. The vaccination center will then give you more information on how to request a home vaccination. A medical evaluation by your doctor is always necessary.

    If you live in Brussels, there are other options for mobile vaccination without an appointment. Please see: https://coronavirus.brussels/en/home-2/

    Can I volunteer at a vaccination center?

    Do you want to help as a volunteer in a vaccination center? Students and retired people are also more than welcome! Register on the various platforms where people are looking for volunteers or temporary workers:

    For Flanderswww.helpdehelpers.be: specifically for people with a (para)medical background, both volunteer and temporary worker • www.rodekruis.be/crisisvoluntaryers: volunteer at the red cross • www.vdab.be/helpindezorg: vacancies for healthcare, especially non-medical profiles

    For Brussels: https://www.iriscare.brussels/nl/professionals/covid-19-coronavirus-2/volunteers-vaccination-covid-19

    For Wallonia: https://solidaire.aviq.be

    For the German-speaking community: karin.cormann@dgov.be

    Many vaccination centers also have local channels and websites to recruit volunteers. The vaccination centers themselves of course choose which volunteers to call on.

    Where can I find my Corona certificate? (Covid Safe Ticket-CST)?
    Go to https://covidsafe.be/ Everything is explained there.
    I was vaccinated abroad. Where do I get my vaccination certificate?

    The certificate is primarily drawn up and issued by the country where the vaccination took place.

    You can also receive a vaccination certificate from Belgium from 5 July 2021 when

    • you have been vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or with the Covishield vaccine
    • and you have a Belgian national register number or a BIS number.

    In that case, contact your Belgian GP to register the vaccination. Since 23 June, GPs can enter a vaccination and all correct data (country code and CNK code) in the central vaccination database Vaccinnet. Before 23 June, only an earlier ‘general’ registration could take place. Those vaccinations may have been included in certain statistics (determining vaccination coverage, for example), but they do not entitle you to a certificate.

    Did you have a general registration done before June 23? Then you have to report to your Belgian GP again to have the registration completed. If you meet the conditions, you will receive a certificate. If you do not meet the above conditions, no vaccination certificate will be issued by Belgium. You can ask whether the country where you received the vaccination can provide you with supporting documents. EU countries are not obliged to accept this proof. Check with the country you want to travel to whether/which supporting documents are accepted from the country where you received the vaccination.

    Is my certificate (temporarily) invalid if another infection with COVID-19 is detected after I have been vaccinated?

    An infection after vaccination has no impact on the validity of your vaccination certificate.

    Read more about the COVID certificates at https://covidsafe.be/

    What happens to my vaccination certificate if my personal details change?

    Does your address change, does your surname or first name change or does your national register number change? Your certificate will NOT be updated automatically. Contact your region helpdesk and request to have the certificate re-established. Then it is best to download the new version of your certificate.

    Read more about the COVID certificates at https://covidsafe.be/

    The validity of my vaccination certificate has apparently expired. What should I do?

    Some countries still require a valid vaccination certificate. More information can be found at https://reopen.europa.eu/nl

    However, the validity date of your vaccination certificate may have expired. Therefore, pick up your renewed COVID-19 certificate.

    Do you use the covid safe app? Open your app and press the button “check for new certificates” and sign in. The validity of your vaccination certificate will then be extended.

    Did you download your vaccination certificate from a website or have it sent to you on paper? Is this certificate older than 1 year? Then it is best to download a new version or request a new mailing of your most recent, renewed vaccination certificate.

    Recovery certificates and negative test certificates can of course expire. They always have a limited validity.

    When produced in accordance with European rules, the vaccination certificates received a “technical signature” of 1 year. We have recently been allowed to renew the technical signature of all vaccination certificates and in the future this will also happen automatically 30 days before your vaccination certificate’s “birthday”. A renewal will then no longer be necessary.

After vaccination

    Will I have to be vaccinated every year against COVID-19?
    • At the moment, there is no definitive answer to this question. At present this is being studied.
    Can I still get COVID-19 after vaccination?
    • Just like other vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine does not offer 100% protection, even after 2 doses.
    • Because we cannot check whether someone is infected at the time of the vaccination, it is possible that the infection with COVID-19 is detected shortly after the first vaccination. This is due to the fact that the person being vaccinated was already infected at the time of vaccination, but showed no symptoms. Furthermore, just like other vaccinations, there is a 14 day interval before the immune system is stimulated by the first vaccine. If anyone is exposed to the virus shortly after the first vaccination, this could lead to an infection.
    • The vaccination prevents you from becoming ill from an infection. At the moment, we do not know whether the vaccination prevents you from transferring the virus to others.

    As long as insufficient people have been vaccinated, it is therefore vital that you comply with the protective measures even after you have been vaccinated (social distancing, wearing a face mask, washing hands, airing rooms, etc.).

    Am I protected immediately after vaccination?
    • After vaccination, it takes between 10 and 14 days before your body begins to make antibodies. If you are exposed to the virus in this period, your immune system is not yet sufficiently stimulated by the vaccine and you could still become infected.
      • Just like other vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine does not offer 100% protection, even after 2 or more doses. However, recent Belgian evidence shows that the vaccines protect 80 to 90% against hospitalization.
    • Because we cannot currently check whether the person being vaccinated is carrying the virus, it could be that he/she was infected at the moment of vaccination and then tests positive for COVID-19 and becomes sick. That is due to the fact that the virus was still in the incubation period at the moment of vaccination.
    Can I get back to normal once I've been vaccinated?
    Once we have achieved a high enough vaccination level among the risk groups and reduced the pressure on the healthcare system, changes will be implemented with respect to the safety measures. At the moment, you must continue to follow coronavirus measures for your own safety and the safety of others. Particularly if you do not belong to a high-risk group but do come into contact with high-risk persons. Check the corona website of the region where you are located to be aware of the local measures.

Helping as a volunteer

Would you like to help as a volunteer/caregiver in a vaccination centre? Students and pensioners are also more than welcome!

Read more

For more information about the vaccination, see:

Report of the Working Group on Vaccination Strategy Organisation (Vaccination Task Force): Priority vaccination of persons at increased risk during the 2021 COVID-19 pandemia in Belgium