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Belgium OKs 4th vaccine shot for immunocompromised people

Belgium's health ministers have approved a recommendation to use a fourth dose of coronavirus vaccine to better protect people with a weakened immune system against the virus.

Christie Morreale, the minister for public health in the federal government, said Monday that she and her regional counterparts have greenlighted the proposal made by the country's health council. Morreale did not give a date for the start of the program.

About 77% of Belgium's nearly 11.5 million people are now fully vaccinated, and some 6.3 million Belgians have received a booster dose, according to the latest figures from health authorities.

Police set off a water cannon against protestors during a demonstration against COVID-19 measures in Brussels, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. Demonstrators gathered in the Belgian capital to protest what they regard as overly extreme measures by the government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including a vaccine pass regulating access to certain places and activities and possible compulsory vaccines. (AP PhotoGeert Vanden Wijngaert)

Belgium had 2,851 COVID-19 patients in the hospital as of Monday, including 364 in intensive care units. At least 28,800 people have died from COVID-19 in Belgium since the start of the pandemic.

On Sunday, police fired water cannons and thick clouds of tear gas in Brussels, the capital, to disperse people protesting COVID-19 vaccinations and government restrictions that aim to curb the fast-spreading omicron variant.

Police said the protest drew an estimated 50,000 people, some traveling from France, Germany and other countries to take part. Protesters yelled “Liberty!” as they marched and some had violent confrontations with police. Video showed black-clad protesters attacking a building used by the European Union’s diplomatic service, hurling projectiles at its entrance and smashing windows.

A man sits on the pavement as police confront protestors during a demonstration against COVID-19 measures in Brussels, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. Demonstrators gathered in the Belgian capital to protest what they regard as overly extreme measures by the government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including a vaccine pass regulating access to certain places and activities and possible compulsory vaccines. (AP PhotoGeert Vanden Wijngaert)

Brussels police said 228 people had been detained Sunday for disturbing public order. In addition, 11 people were arrested on charges of possession of a weapon, rebellion against the law enforcement and damage. Three officers and 12 demonstrators required hospital treatment.

Follow all AP stories on the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

Protestors wave signs near a burning fire as they demonstrate against COVID-19 measures in Brussels, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. Demonstrators gathered in the Belgian capital to protest what they regard as overly extreme measures by the government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including a vaccine pass regulating access to certain places and activities and possible compulsory vaccines.(AP PhotoOlivier Matthys)

A man plays a guitar as he walks by a line of police during a demonstration against COVID-19 measures in Brussels, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. Demonstrators gathered in the Belgian capital to protest what they regard as overly extreme measures by the government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including a vaccine pass regulating access to certain places and activities and possible compulsory vaccines. (AP PhotoGeert Vanden Wijngaert)

A man is detained during a demonstration against COVID-19 measures in Brussels, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. Demonstrators gathered in the Belgian capital to protest what they regard as overly extreme measures by the government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including a vaccine pass regulating access to certain places and activities and possible compulsory vaccines. (AP PhotoGeert Vanden Wijngaert)

A police officer walks by a damaged building in the European Union quarter during a demonstration against COVID-19 measures in Brussels, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. Demonstrators gathered in the Belgian capital to protest what they regard as overly extreme measures by the government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including a vaccine pass regulating access to certain places and activities and possible compulsory vaccines. (AP PhotoGeert Vanden Wijngaert)

Protestors wave signs as they demonstrate against COVID-19 measures in Brussels, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. Demonstrators gathered in the Belgian capital to protest what they regard as overly extreme measures by the government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including a vaccine pass regulating access to certain places and activities and possible compulsory vaccines.(AP PhotoOlivier Matthys)

A demonstrator stands amidst teargas during a demonstration against COVID-19 measures in Brussels, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. Demonstrators gathered in the Belgian capital to protest what they regard as overly extreme measures by the government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including a vaccine pass regulating access to certain places and activities and possible compulsory vaccines. (AP PhotoGeert Vanden Wijngaert)

A police officer walks in a damaged building in the European Union quarter during a demonstration against COVID-19 measures in Brussels, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. Demonstrators gathered in the Belgian capital to protest what they regard as overly extreme measures by the government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including a vaccine pass regulating access to certain places and activities and possible compulsory vaccines. (AP PhotoGeert Vanden Wijngaert)