COVID-19 makes it important to be able to vaccinate at-risk groups to the maximum extent possible in order to avoid overburdening the healthcare sector. Therefore, influenza vaccination for 2020-2021 will be phased in, giving priority to those at risk.
The Public Health Ministers (federal and federated entities) stress the importance of 2020-2021 seasonal influenza vaccination in the context of COVID-19 and favour a sequential approach to vaccination.
COVID-19 and seasonal influenza
There is a risk that seasonal influenza may coincide with a COVID-19 peak. As a consequence, for winter 2020-2021, it is essential to be able to vaccinate, as a priority, as many at-risk people as possible in order to avoid overburdening the healthcare system.
In addition, vaccination of health sector personnel is essential to indirectly protect patients and to ensure that health sector personnel remain available during a new COVID-19 wave. Finally, the vaccination of people aged between 50 and 64 will reduce the workload for first line medicine.
Usually, it is recommended to vaccinate against influenza between mid-October and mid-December, as the vaccine offers protection within 10 to 15 days after the injection.
For the 2020-2021 seasonal influenza, the Public Health Ministers (federal and federated entities) favour a sequential approach to vaccination:
1. From 15 September to 15 November 2020.
Vaccines will only be delivered to the target groups defined by the Superior Health Council.
2. From 15 November 2020
Depending on the availability of vaccines after the priority vaccination of the previous target groups, vaccination can be extended to the rest of the population.
This sequential approach concerns both vaccinations by occupational medicine and by the attending physician.
Physicians and pharmacists are informed of the importance of this sequential approach for a 2020-2021 seasonal influenza vaccination.
The Superior Health Council (French or Dutch version) has identified the following at-risk groups:
Group 1: people at risk of complications
- all pregnant women regardless of the stage of pregnancy
- any patient from the age of 6 months with an underlying chronic condition, even if stabilised, of pulmonary (including severe asthma), cardiac (excluding hypertension), hepatic, renal, metabolic (including diabetes), BMI > 35, neuromuscular or immune disorders (natural or induced) origin.
- any person aged 65 and over
- people in institutional care
- children between the ages of 6 months and 18 years inclusive undergoing long-term aspirin therapy
Group 2: health sector personnel
Group 3: people living under the same roof as
- at-risk people from group 1
- children under 6 months of age
- people aged between 50 and 65 years old
Availability of seasonal influenza vaccines
Belgium will have 2.9 million seasonal influenza vaccines available, more than in previous years. This quantity will be sufficient to cover the vaccination of at-risk groups identified by the Superior Health Council (SHC), if the vaccination rate is comparable to the previous season.
Three quadrivalent vaccines will be available: Alpharix-Tetra®, Vaxigrip Tetra® and Influvac Tetra®.
The Interministerial Conference on Public Health consists of:
- Maggie De Block - Federal Government
- Wouter Beke - Flemish Government
- Christie Morreale - Walloon Government
- Valérie Glatigny - Government of the French Community
- Bénédicte Linard - Government of the French Community
- Alain Maron - Joint Community Commission and French Community Commission
- Elke Van den Brandt - Joint Community Commission and Flemish Community Commission
- Antonios Antoniadis - Government of the German-speaking Community
- In the presence of Philippe De Backer, Head of the Testing & Shortages Taskforce