Vaccine bus rolls up at low-coverage Brussels districts to boost campaign

By Ricardo Ruiz Varo

Brussels, Jul 8 (EFE).- In an attempt to facilitate access to Covid-19 inoculations, the Brussels-Capital Region has launched an experimental vaccination bus, which offers single-dose Johnson&Johnson jabs with no need for an appointment.

The coach’s inaugural trip saw it parked in the Jette district in northern Brussels, which is home to a large immigrant community, and has one of the city’s lowest vaccination rates.

While the rest of the country’s vaccination rollout has picked up the pace, many municipal districts of Brussels, known as communes, are struggling to keep up, in part due to the city’s cosmopolitan population, with up to 182 nationalities that make it one of the most diverse in the world, second only to New York City.

According to Inge Neven, head of the region’s Health Inspectorate, the city’s diversity can complicate reaching out to some residents who might not know the language and are not able to navigate the vaccination appointment system.

“We have been installing a lot of local actions to lower the barriers for people to get vaccinated,” she said, explaining that low-coverage areas where people live “very closely together” in densely populated urban neighborhoods are the main targets of the mobile vaccination programme.

The bus expects to inoculate 200 people in two days, as it awaits walk-in patients from nearby high-rise buildings in Jette, although Neven hopes they will have to send the coach on an errand for extra doses if more people show up.

“We also know from experience that it always takes a bit of time,” she said. “Little by little, people talk to each other and the demand increases.”

As soon as the shuttle opened its doors at 10am, it was welcomed with 20 people queuing for a vaccine.

“I was made aware of it through social media. I saw no appointment needed, close to home, so I decided to come,” says Ecuadorian resident Graciela, freshly jabbed following a simple inscription with her ID card.

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