Flanders launches vaccination campaign amid rise in measles and whooping cough

The Flemish government launched a long-term campaign to spread accurate information about vaccination on Monday, as part of the European Vaccination Week. Cases of measles and whooping cough are on the rise in Flanders, and in Europe in general, so high vaccination coverage remains crucial to avoid major outbreaks.

The healthcare department wants to inform people effectively about the reasons for vaccination by disseminating information and testimonials via websites and social media throughout the year. Experts will provide clarification on topics such as vaccination during pregnancy and vaccination in children through videos and podcasts.

Cases of measles and whooping cough have increased in Flanders in recent years. In 2023 and 2024, 35 and 11 measles cases were reported respectively, compared to only three and one in 2021 and 2022. For whooping cough, there were 1,169 cases in 2023 and 586 in 2024, compared to 17 in 2021 and 198 in 2022. These increases are largely due to the lifting of the Covid measures.

Flanders hasn’t suffered major outbreaks and deaths, thanks to its high vaccination coverage. Maintaining that requires continuous awareness raising.

The new campaign was launched as part of the European Vaccination Week, taking place from 22 to 26 April. At a press conference about this European initiative, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control warned that the number of measles virus infections began to rise in 2023 and that trend has continued in several EU member states. At least 5,770 measles cases were reported between March 2023 and February 2024, and at least five deaths.

Babies under the age of one are most at risk because they cannot be vaccinated and rely on group immunity. Because measles spreads very easily, at least 95 per cent of the population must be vaccinated with two doses of the measles vaccine to stop transmission of the virus.

Since mid-2023, there has also been an increase in whooping cough cases in several European Economic Area countries - the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Preliminary data indicates more than a tenfold increase in 2023 and 2024 compared to 2021 and 2022. Again, babies are most at risk. Vaccination during pregnancy can protect babies.


#FlandersNewsService | Healthcare worker giving a vaccine injection to a patient © BELGA PHOTO JONAS D'HOLLANDER

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