Belgium's largest vaccine centre swamped with demand after technical issues




  • In US
  • 2021-03-03 18:16:28Z
  • By Reuters
 

By Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium's biggest COVID-19 vaccination centre was overwhelmed on Wednesday by hundreds of Belgians queuing to get inoculated, after computer problems when the centre opened last week kept people from receiving invitations and being processed.

The Brussels region issued an open invitation to workers in sectors including health, social care and the police to be given vaccinations without making appointments, but delays in registering them when they arrived meant some waited more than three hours.

"We have been here since 10:40 a.m. It's 1:40 p.m., we've been moving at a snail's pace for the last three hours and no one has given us any water or provided any toilets. Nothing," said Mariel Deschamps, who works at a centre for disabled children in Brussels.

When Brussels' Heysel conference centre opened as a vaccination site last week, it was almost empty because the IT system failed to send invitations to people to receive their shots.

A Reuters crew on Feb. 26 visited the centre, which was operating at barely half its 1,000-person capacity, according to the local government's COVID-19 task force.

"We don't know how many people will come because we're not in control of that number. So that's why today there are big queues," Emin Luka, who oversees the vaccination centre, told Reuters on Wednesday.

Long lines formed in front of the building and inside the vaccination area, decorated with trees and lined with coloured carpets, as people waited to be seen by doctors.

Belgium has administered 824,267 COVID-19 vaccine doses. Based on the speed of the country's rollout so far, it would take a further 146 days to inoculate another 10% of the population, according to Reuters data.

Belgium's nine health ministers met on Wednesday to discuss a review of the vaccination strategy, after the country missed its target to vaccinate frontline health workers by the end of February.

The Belgian government will meet on Friday to discuss the country's COVID-19 restrictions, including its ban on non-essential foreign travel.

(Reporting by Yves Herman in Brussels; Writing by Marine Strauss; Editing by Kate Abnett and Matthew Lewis)

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