Good news: no serious side effects in participants Gents …

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The CureVac vaccine is being tested in three German cities (Tübingen, Munich and Hanover), but also in Ghent.

Photo: REUTERS

None of the 50 participants in a UZ Gent study on a corona vaccine have “serious or unexpected” side effects. An important step and good news in the development of a fully working vaccine by the German company CureVac. A second vaccine candidate from the American multinational Johnson & Johnson is also being tested at the Ghent Center for Vaccinology (CEVAC). However, that study suffers from a shortage of subjects aged between 65 and 75 years. “However, that is a risk group for which a vaccine is very important,” say the researchers.


The Belgian study into possible side effects of the CureVac vaccine started in mid-June. Fifty Belgian volunteers have registered and have now completed their first vaccination. A fifth received a placebo, the other participants received the study vaccine in one of the doses being tested. “Up to now, our impressions have been very good,” says Prof. Geert Leroux-Roels. Trials have also started in Germany, where the findings are along the same lines. “Different dosages have been tried. Overall, it is a safe product. ”

A small group of subjects report mild complaints such as fatigue, fever or headache. The researchers indicate that possible side effects indicate that the immune system is activated. After 24 hours, the body has anticipated and the complaints disappear. However, the search for an effective vaccine against the coronavirus has not yet been completed. “If all goes well, CureVac will be able to communicate the first results in September.”

The development of the CureVac vaccine has received international interest in recent months. For example, in March it emerged that US President Donald Trump is interested in buying the vaccine and making it available only on his own territory. The German government prevented that attempt and the development of the vaccine in question was later given a European capital injection of 80 million euros. The CureVac vaccine is being tested in three German cities (Tübingen, Munich and Hanover), but also in Ghent.

Volunteers shortage

A second promising candidate, a vaccine from the American pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, is also being administered to test subjects in Ghent. “We have just started with that,” says Leroux-Roels. “In a first phase, the candidate vaccine is evaluated in young adults. However, in a subsequent phase, it will be assessed in older adults aged 65 to 75. We find it difficult to find volunteers there. We are somewhat surprised because we usually have easy access to older adults as participants in our vaccine studies. ”

Leroux-Roels suspects that the negative image surrounding the coronavirus causes an over-concerned attitude with potential candidates. “There may be a misunderstanding that corona vaccines make the vaccinated sick, infect or threaten the environment. I can formally deny that. ”

In Ghent, a group of about 130 test subjects will be evaluated for the latter vaccine, including 55 older people. The researchers emphasize that all their studies are conducted in a controlled and safe environment. Those who are generally healthy and who live within a radius of 20 km around UZ Gent can inquire about the study at www.uzgent.be/Cevac-corona2 and possibly apply.

Worldwide, 198 candidate vaccines are under development, of which around 20 are currently being tested on humans. The Center for Vaccinology (CEVAC), a research unit of UZ Gent, is currently evaluating two candidate vaccines. Those are among the front runners, along with a compound by the drug companies Pfizer and BioNTech, a vaccine by Oxford University and a Chinese candidate.



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