UMC Utrecht begins testing new coronavirus vaccine
On Tuesday the UMC Utrecht began testing a vaccine candidate from German-Dutch pharmaceutical firm CureVac. The vaccine is one of six which were pre-ordered by the European Union earlier this year.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge wrote in a letter to Parliament last week that if the CureVac product is approved, the Netherlands will receive 600 thousand doses during the first quarter, and eight million more spread out through March 2022. Two doses will likely be needed per person, meaning it could protect 4.3 million people in the country.
“It is really important that this vaccine is studied well and quickly because it is one of the vaccines that the Netherlands has already purchased many doses,” says Marc Bonten, member of the Outbreak Management Team and microbiologist at the Utrecht hospital to RTV Utrecht.
The UMC Utrecht is the first Dutch hospital to begin testing the vaccine, though more are soon to follow. “We are probably going to conduct this study with five other centers. Exactly how much that will be per center we will determine over the coming weeks and months," so Bonten.
In the beginning, only four subjects will receive the vaccine or a placebo. That number is set to rise in the following weeks, as soon as medical check-ups are complete. “We are looking to see if they really are able to participate in the study. Then, they have to give their consent again", Bonten explains.
Worldwide, 36,500 volunteers are needed to test the vaccine, 2,000 of which will come from the Netherlands. Thus far, 1,500 people in the Netherlands have been recruited. Half of the subjects will then receive a vaccine and the other a placebo. Afterwards, people will be observed to see if they have an allergic reaction. If all is well, they will be sent home, and regular check-ups will be performed performed to document their progress.
The company plans to submit its results and its application for approval to the European Medicines Agency using the EMA's rolling review procedure.