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Johnson & Johnson vaccine could reach Belgium by March

Credit: Retha Ferguson/Wikimedia

Belgians could receive the first batches of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine in March or April, Paul Stoffels, the company’s Chief Scientific Officer, told VRT.

Johnson & Johnson is currently testing its vaccine on 40,000 people and expects to complete the study between the middle and end of January, after which the vaccine would need to be approved by the relevant authorities.

The company hopes to get approval from early March, “probably first in the US,” which should be followed “releatively quickly” by Europe, meaning vaccinations could start “on a large scale” in late March or April.

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Meanwhile, Pfizer and BioNTech got their vaccine approved in both the UK and the United States, and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is scheduled to meet on 21 December to discuss approval for Europe.

Stoffels said he has no problem with the fact that Pfizer and BioNTech developed their vaccine faster, as “4 to 8 billion vaccines need to be produced worldwide.”

“We have spent a little more time developing a single-dose vaccine,” Stoffels pointed out. “This is important to be able to vaccinate on a large scale.”

While March is still months away, the first 5,000 Belgians could be vaccinated before the end of the year, as Pfizer promised Belgium a so-called “symbolic shipment” of its vaccine before the end of this year, Belgium’s Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke announced on Wednesday.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times