Monkeypox vaccine, an excuse to visit Valenciennes

September 2022. Just over a month after Maarten and I went to Lille for our first jab of the monkeypox vaccine, we went to Valenciennes for the second jab. 

Why do we bother to go to France for the monkeypox vaccine, which is affecting the gay scene and community the most? Because Belgium has very few doses of the vaccine and is very strict with who qualifies. Until recently you had to have or HIV or be on PrEP and you had to have had two STIs recently.

Now, the Institute of Tropical Medecine (ITM) in Antwerp is using a new method. The vaccine can now also be administered intradermally, which means under the skin. ITM is one of only two Belgian clinics that has been using this technique routinely for years. Doctors and nurses from the institute will also train other clinics in this.

2.5 times more vaccinations

With intradermal vaccination, the vaccine is injected into the skin instead of the muscle. This technique is more economical and usually more effective, but it tends to cause side effects such as redness at the injection site. 

Because you only need one-fifth of the dose with this method, it is used in vaccine shortages in areas where rabies, yellow fever or polio occur. 

“Since we will administer this micro-dose at two different times, we can preventively vaccinate 2.5 more people at risk. This means we are making huge leaps forward compared to the first phase. Back then, only one dose was given, with a follow-up injection by the end of the year”, says Dr. Patrick Soentjens, Head of the ITM travel clinic, in a press release.

Long-standing expertise

In cooperation with the Ministry of Defense, ITM has built up years of expertise in this vaccination technique. Among other things, through clinical studies on vaccination schedules for rabies and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE). Since 2018, travellers have been able to go to ITM, as the only clinic in Belgium, for an intradermal preventive vaccination against rabies. The institute will now also pass on this expertise to HIV centres, so that they can make optimal use of their stock of monkeypox vaccines and help more people at risk.

ITM is soon planning a prospective study to evaluate the intradermal technique for the monkeypox vaccine in even more detail.

This means to qualify you must have had one STI recently. 

Monkeypox stats

In Belgium and France, monkeypox numbers are growing more slowly and even dropping. Belgium did count its first monkeypox related death though. 

There are 726 confirmed cases of monkey pox in Belgium: 384 in Flanders (53%), 258 in Brussels (36%) and 84 in Wallonia (11%). Among them 699 men, 3 women and 2 people who identify themselves differently. The gender of the others is unknown. Sciensano reported this on Tuesday 7 September.

The risk for the population is still low. Most are between the ages of 16 and 71. One case has been reported in a child under 3 years of age. All patients show skin lesions. 

58% also have general symptoms, such as fever, feeling generally unwell and swollen lymph nodes. A total of 32 people were hospitalized. So far, one death has been reported, involving someone with underlying health conditions.

Monkeypox visuals.

To France

As neither Maarten or I qualified and qualify, we went to France. And why Valenciennes? Because they already allow a second jab. 

There seems to be less enthusiasm to get vaccinated, Têtu reports. And indeed, staff of the Centre Hospitalier de Valenciennes told us there were only three appointments on Wednesday 7 September and for on Thursday 8 September. Conclusion: go make an appointment via Doctolib.

Anyway, we got our jab. Staff was friendly and he nurse who actually jabbed is very talented. We didn’t feel a thing.

Valenciennes

Valenciennes (Dutch: Valencijn) is a commune in the Nord department, in the Hauts-de-France region.

It lies on the Scheldt river.

The Scheldt in Valenciennes.

History of Valenciennes

Valenciennes is first mentioned in 693 in a legal document written by Clovis II. In the 843 Treaty of Verdun, it was made a neutral city between Neustria and the Austrasia

In 923 it passed to the Duchy of Lower Lotharingia dependent on the Holy Roman Empire. Once the Empire of the Franks was established, the city began to develop, though the archaeological record has still not revealed all it has to reveal about this period. Under the Ottonian emperors, Valenciennes became the centre of marches on the border of the Empire.

In 1008, a terrible famine brought the plague. According to the local tradition, the Virgin Mary held a cordon around the city which, miraculously, has since protected its people from the disease. Since then, every year at that time, the Valenciennois used to walk around the 14 km (9 mi) road round the town, in what is called the tour of the Holy Cordon. Many counts succeeded, first as margraves of Valenciennes and from 1070 as counts of Hainault.

In the 15th century, the County of Hainault, of which Valenciennes is part, was re-attached to Burgundy, losing its autonomy. 

Valenciennes in the 17th century

In the wave of iconoclastic attacks called the Beeldenstorm that swept the Habsburg Netherlands in the summer of 1566, the city was the furthest south to see such an attack on 24 August 1566.

The French army laid siege to the city in 1656. Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, Seigneur and Marquis de Vauban participated in this siege without a command. The Spanish victory in the Battle of Valenciennes (16 July 1656) lifted the French siege.

In 1677, the armies of Louis XIV of France, this time led by Vauban, captured the city and in 1678 the Treaty of Nijmegen gave the French control of Valenciennes (1678) and the surrounding southern part of Hainault, roughly cutting the former county in half. 

The city became one of the main strongholds of northern France, and was fortified by Vauban, who personally visited the town for that purpose shortly after the Treaty.

Industry

During the Enlightenment era, the economic situation of Valenciennes was in decline until the discovery of coal. 

The first pit was dug in Fresnes in 1718 and the discovery of burnable coal in 1734 at the Anzin Gate led to the formation of the Compagnie des mines d’Anzin. In the eighteenth century, the city was equally renowned for its porcelain.

1793–1914

The city was besieged by the First Coalition against Revolutionary France in 1793.

Following a protracted Siege of Valenciennes the city was captured and occupied in July by Anglo-Austrian forces under the Duke of York and the Prince of Saxe-Coburg, and only retaken by the French Revolutionary armies in August 1794.

In 1824 Valenciennes became a sous-préfecture. In the 19th century, thanks to coal, Valenciennes became a great industrial centre and the capital of Northern France’s steel industry.

On 6 August 1890, a law downgraded the town’s fortified status, and so from 1891 to 1893, its fortifications were demolished. The town was granted the Légion d’honneur in 1900.

First World War

During World War I the German army occupied the town in 1914. They were finally driven out by British forces at the Battle of Valenciennes in 1918.

Second World War

On May 10, 1940, the town’s inhabitants fled by road. A huge fire devoured the heart of the town, fuelled in particular by a fuel depot. German troops then occupied the ruined city on May 27. Former Prince Wilhelm was wounded in Valenciennes and later died of his wounds.

On September 2, 1944, after bloody fighting, American troops entered Valenciennes and liberated the city.

1945 to present

The town’s first antenna was set up in Lille in 1964, then the Centre universitaire was set up in 1970, becoming independent in 1979 as the University of Valenciennes and Hainaut-Cambrésis.

Tourist Office.

A visit

We arrived around 10 AM in Valenciennes. We parked the car at the hospital and walked to the Tourist Office in the city centre. 

Valenciennes has a decent tourism website, but at the Tourist Office we received a map wit a prefab walk to see the main sights. So we did just that.

We actually didn’t have enough time to complete walk. That’s okay. It was not the main purpose of our visit. But we dod like what we see. I didn’t have high expectations of Valenciennes, but actually it looks like a cosy city. 

More on monkeypox

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