Duvel beer and the new Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are made using exactly the same source of water, according to an expert in hydrology.
The story emerged as a result of the publicity surrounding the vaccine, which is manufactured in Puurs, a small town of some 26,400 inhabitants in Antwerp province. The news of the vaccine has brought international media flocking to the town, mayor Koen Van den Heuvel (CD&V) told De Tijd on Wednesday.
Pfizer is a close neighbour in the town with another international brand: Duvel beer, brewed by Duvel Moortgat. The association was quickly made.
“I heard on television that the American Duvel importer jokingly recommended his fellow countrymen to drink the beer,” Van den Heuvel told the paper. “Because it was made from the same water as the Pfizer vaccine from Puurs. Journalists are already calling me ‘the mayor of the city that will save the planet,’” he said.
No more was made of the claim, until the VRT decided to investigate, calling on Marijke Huysmans, an expert on hydrology – the science of water – at the university of Leuven and the Free University of Brussels (VUB). Who confirmed the claim.
“They both have a permit to pump up groundwater from the same groundwater layer,” she explained on VRT Radio 2 Antwerp.
The solution lay in the database of permits.
“That shows that Duvel pumps groundwater from a layer at a depth of 63m, and that Pfizer also has a permit for the same layer at a depth of 68m. So both companies pump up water from the same layer.”
The claim was corroborated by the local water authority Pidpa.
“They both certainly use our water,” confirmed spokesperson Alain T’Syen, the spokesman for water company Pidpa. “We even laid an extra large supply pipe to the brewery. Although it is true that the companies also pump up and purify groundwater themselves. More companies do that, for example for cooling systems.”
The quality of the water used is crucial to the final product of brewing, to such an extent that companies often purify the water and then add back the qualities most sought-after. The water used in vaccines, on the other hand, has to be ultra-pure, and in any case is used in far smaller quantities.
“Beer consists of 80 to 90 percent of that groundwater, and that also determines the taste,” said Huysmans. “I doubt whether so much of the groundwater ends up in the vaccine. I don’t know very much about vaccine production.”