Milk, bread and… a COVID jab? Vaccines given at Belgian supermarket

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Supermarkets in Brussels are now offering shoppers a COVID-19 vaccine.

Customers can get the single Johnson and Johnson jab in just 15 minutes at two Carrefour stores. It’s free and there is no need to make an appointment.

“It doesn’t matter where they do the vaccine, whether it’s at a hospital or at the supermarket. It’s the same quality control,” says Rasmane, a 34-year-old resident of Wallonia, the French-speaking region south of Brussels, who made the trip to Carrefour to receive his vaccine dose.

“It’s very practical. Especially because it’s just one dose,” says Kevin, a customer. “You don’t need to wait two or three months for another jab.”

These vaccine units have been set up at several different stores around Brussels. The campaign, which will last four weeks, aims at boosting the vaccination rate in the Belgian capital, which currently lags behind the rest of the country (62% compared to 70% for the whole of Belgium).

So far, the initiative seems to be successful.

“We had 92 people (vaccinated) in one day for the two supermarkets where we have these vaccine units,” said Siryn Stambouli, spokesperson for Carrefour Belgium. “It’s a good result. And we think that we will have a positive outcome.”

Several NGOs have also created mobile vaccination units, called “Mobivax” in a bid to reach out to marginalised communities. Since May, 1,700 people have been vaccinated through this initiative.

Lily Caldwell, the Mobivax coordinator at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), told Euronews: “It’s important to come towards people and especially the homeless and undocumented populations because their main priority is housing, food, and by coming closer to them we are able to get to a higher percentage of vaccinated among those populations.”

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It comes with 70 % of the EU’s adult population now vaccinated against COVID-19. But experts warn that this ratio, once presented as the goal to reach herd immunity, is not enough to successfully fend off variants of the virus.

“The magic number is not there,” argues Lucia Pastore Celentano, head of vaccine-preventable diseases at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

“Basically, we don’t know,” she adds, as the Delta variant, which is more transmissible, makes herd immunity more complicated to achieve. The ratio could be as high as 95%.

“We have also to consider the option that this virus will stay with us becoming endemic, but less and less virulent,” said Pastore Celentano.

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