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Belgium starts clinical trials on coronavirus vaccine

Credit: Belga

Clinical trials for a coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine by Belgian pharmaceutical company Janssen Pharmaceutica officially start on Monday.

A total of 1,000 adults will be tested for the vaccine in Belgium and the United States, where parent company Johnson & Johnson is located.

The trials are currently in phase 1/2a, during which the vaccine is tested for safety, possible side-effects and the immune system’s reaction to the vaccine.

Janssen Pharmaceutica hopes to start testing whether the vaccine actually works from September, the head of Janssen Pharmaceutica’s vaccine program Johan Van Hoof told De Ochtend.

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There could be a functional vaccine by the first half of 2021, according to Van Hoof, who says that “we remain carefully optimistic based on what we observe in test animals. But we will not say that it works before we have real results.”

Janssen Pharmaceutica is reportedly in talks with government and aid organisations to see how the vaccine can be offered to as many people as possible if it proves effective and gets approved, “but in the beginning, it will be necessary to set priorities: which groups of the population get offered the vaccine first?”

Earlier this month, Belgium’s Superior Health Council specified priority groups including health workers, people over 65, and people between 45 and 65 with risk factors.

Janssen Pharmaceutica is reportedly expanding production capacity and benefitting from investments to produce large quantities of the vaccine, causing Van Hoof to be “optimistic that significant quantities will be available.”

Janssen Pharmaceutica is far from the only company racing to find a vaccine. According to the WHO, as of 24 July, there were 25 candidate vaccines in clinical evaluation, as well as over 140 candidate vaccines in preclinical evaluation.

The Brussels Times