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Risk groups targeted in flu vaccine campaign

Published on 08/09/2005

8 September 2005

BRUSSELS — Too few Belgians are undergoing flu vaccinations, prompting Health Minister Rudy Demotte to announce on Thursday that immediate measures will be taken.

The number of health workers undergoing vaccinations is extremely low at just 20 percent. Very few elderly are getting vaccinated against the flu virus as well, newspaper ‘De Tijd’ reported.

The figures were unveiled in a paper written by Leuven University Hospital professor Marc van Ranst and Dr René Snacken from the Public Health Academic Institute in Brussels.

Minister Demotte said he will allocate between EUR 4 and 5 million to efforts aimed at getting more people from risk groups to be vaccinated. The risk groups account for 33 percent of the Belgian population.

Workers in the poultry industry — who are at threat from a possible avian bird flu outbreak — and the health sector will be targeted. People aged 65 or older are already repaid the cost of a vaccination

Demotte will present his proposals to the Cabinet at its weekly of Friday.

The minister also intends to intensify safety measures at Belgian harbours and airports to limit the chance of bird flu infections as the virus spreads towards Europe.

In hospitals, gloves and masks will be used to reduce the chance of infection. A change of mentality is also considered necessary.

Despite the low vaccination rate, Belgium compares favourably with other European countries.

In 1988, just 7 percent of people were vaccinated, compared with 22 percent last year. But 60 percent or 2 million people in risk groups do not get vaccinated.

Academics Van Ranst and Snacken urged the government to launch campaigns promoting flu vaccinations. They urged everyone above the age of 50 to undergo a flu vaccination.
In addition to the current 400,000 anti-virals, Minister Demotte intends to boost reserves by 200,000 to 400,000.

Some 1,500 people die in Belgium every year from the flu virus. The number of deaths can increase to 4,500 in large-scale epidemics.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news