KU Leuven to launch trials for own Covid-19 vaccine in spring
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KU Leuven to launch trials for own Covid-19 vaccine in spring

Credit: Belga

The KU Leuven university is planning to launch the clinical trials of its own Covid-19 vaccine next spring, head of the vaccinology centre Corinne Vandermeulen said on Tuesday.

Vandermeulen is enthusiastic about the progress on the coronavirus vaccine announced by Pfizer and BioNTech, but added that “more data are needed to be able to form a more precise opinion.”

“It is important to determine the [vaccine’s] efficacy for the elderly, who are the most vulnerable to the virus,” she told the Belga press agency. “It is also important to clarify what is meant by ‘90% efficacy’.”

Further studies will also have to assess the duration of post-vaccination protection. “However, the Pfizer vaccine gives me hope, because the starting point of all vaccines is the same,” she said. “So this is a promising development for the development of other vaccines as well.”

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With the Rega Institute for Medical Research, Vandermeulen’s department is working to prepare its own vaccine. The first phase of these clinical trials could start in the spring of next year, she said.

The timing is a little later than the deadline that had previously been set, for January 2021, due to production constraints, Vandermeulen explained.

However, when effective vaccines will be available, the vaccination campaign in Belgium still needs to take place. “I am not in favour of compulsory vaccination,” she said.

“People need to be convinced of the safety, efficacy and reliability of the vaccine thanks to clear information. They must want to be vaccinated on their own initiative, an obligation can be counterproductive.”

Additionally, the University Hospital in Ghent (UZ Gent) also confirmed that the trials with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccinations would be resumed on Thursday, after they had been halted following the appearance of an “unexplained illness” in a test subject who had taken part in a Phase 3 study abroad in October.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times