The Belgian government is ready to contribute €5 million to an international effort to speed up research into a vaccine against the coronavirus (Covid-19), finance minister Alexander De Croo said.
The funding will go to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), an international alliance that hopes to speed up the development of a vaccine. The coalition hopes to take three candidates for a vaccine into clinical testing as soon as possible.
The development of a vaccine is crucial to saving lives, De Croo said. “It is CEPI’s ambition to get to the stage of clinical testing in four months,” he said. “We have no time to lose.”
The race to develop a vaccine is aimed at the longer term – it is hoped that the peak of the current outbreak will have been reached in Belgium in less than four months, simply because the economy can barely support a lockdown much longer than is already planned.
However the virus is not going to go away, and will likely re-appear towards the end of the year around the time of the winter flu, and perhaps in a slightly mutated form.
At that point a widespread campaign of vaccination will be set in motion to protect those who were never infected this time around, and so have not developed antibodies naturally.
Two of the driving forces behind CEPI are Belgian scientists: Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and a renowned virologist with long experience working on Aids and Ebola; and Paul Stoffels, Chief Scientific Officer for Johnson & Johnson
Piot welcomed the Belgian offer. “Belgium’s contribution will speed up the search for a vaccine,” he said. “It’s only by working together across borders that we can defeat this virus.”