BRUSSELS, Aug 30 (Reuters) – Health authorities in Brussels began offering COVID-19 jabs in supermarkets and shopping centres on Monday to increase vaccination rates in the Belgian capital that have not kept up with Belgium’s rapid inoculation roll-out.
Host to the European Union and NATO, Brussels has only given vaccinations to about 65% of its population, much lower than the surrounding Belgian regions, mainly because people did not respond to requests to go to vaccination centres.
“We’re really trying to bring, as much as possible, the vaccine to the people,” Inge Neven, crisis manager responsible for the COVID-19 response in Brussels, told Reuters.
Belgium has recorded 25,360 deaths from the coronavirus, one of the world’s highest tolls per capita.
Neven said Brussels was home to 182 different nationalities, which made the job of reaching people to encourage them to go to a vaccination centre much harder.
Within Brussels, vaccination is also lower in poorer neighbourhoods, even though many are just short walk from the steel and glass EU buildings and the leafy suburbs inhabited by diplomats and officials.
“We are selecting a number of areas where a lot of people are passing by and so we try really to offer them the vaccine at their place, in their environment, where they work, where they go to school, where they live, and also where they shop,” she said.
One shopper, who gave her name as Esther, said the vaccination points near supermarket check-outs had helped her overcome her fears about having a needle in her arm.
“I didn’t want to but I’ve changed my mind,” she said.
“Before I didn’t want to because I was afraid, but now I have seen other people taking it who feel better, people in my family who’ve had it and it hasn’t been a problem, so I decided to get one too,” she added.
Others worry that Belgium will follow neighbouring France and require proof of vaccination to be able to go into cinemas and cafes.
“I didn’t want to do it (get vaccinated). I didn’t want to do it but as it’s going to become like it is in France, to go into a restaurant you have to show your pass, now I’m doing it,” another shopper Rudi Jacquet said.