Covid-19 vaccine early next year "realistic", Dutch expert says
It is "quite realistic" that there will be an effective vaccine against Covid-19 in early 2021, Ben van der Zeijst, former head of public health institute RIVM and emeritus professor of vaccines at Leiden University Medical Center, said to Nieuwsuur.
According to Van der Zeijst, at least two vaccines are doing well in their third phase of development - the vaccine being developed by Astra Zeneca and Oxford University, and the one being developed by Pfizer and Biontech. Pfizer hopes to know within two weeks whether their vaccine is effective.
These two vaccines are currently being tested on tens of thousands of people, in many cases in areas very affected by the virus. "So you can easily see if it helps," Van der Zeijst said. "If you add that to the hopeful earlier two phases of the studies, I am optimistic."
"We already know that the vaccines produce antibodies to protect us, even more than sick people produce," Van der Zeijst said "I think two vaccines will be approved by the end of this year. Then I hope that enough has already been produced and then we can start distributing."
The vaccines can only be submitted to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for approval after the third and decisive phase of development has been completed. Given the severity of the pandemic, the Dutch branch of the EMA, medicines evaluation board CBG, decided to do a rolling review on the Covid-19 vaccines, in which each phase of the studies are submitted to the CBG as they finish, instead of only after the end of phase three.
"Given the severity of the pandemic, we are re doing our utmost, with more manpower. But that will not be at the expense of quality at any time," Ton de Boer of CBG said to Nieuwsuur. He does not want to speculate on when a vaccine will be ready. "We will only know more when the third phase is also in our hands for assessment. Until then, we cannot say anything about it."