Six vaccines have now been reserved by the European Union. A seventh deal is in the works. Whether the vaccines work sufficiently is still a mystery, but that will soon become clear.
“It will be the litmus test for the corona vaccine”, says Utrecht professor Cécile van Els, who works at RIVM and is a member of the panel that advises the cabinet.
Five of the seven vaccines are being tested in the third and final phase, which means that tens of thousands of people will receive the vaccine in an area where the virus has been widely circulated in recent months, such as Brazil or the United States. Some of them will receive a placebo, some will receive the vaccine.
When a sufficient number of people participating in the trial turn out to be infected – and this is possible with a few dozen infections – the lid is removed from the pan for the first time. It is then checked whether these participants have received a placebo or the vaccine. This is expected to be the case in November in three vaccine studies (AstraZeneca, BioNTech / Pfizer and Moderna). The first interim results may then be published.
For the researchers, that will be the moment of truth. So far, there were only preliminary results in laboratory animals and in human participants in the phase 1 and 2 studies. This examines whether the body of the participants shows a good immune response, and whether it is safe. But whether the vaccine really protects against the corona virus must therefore become clear in practice, in the phase 3 study.
In the worst case, the vaccinees turn out to be infected more often than the people who received the placebo. “That’s every researcher’s nightmare that your vaccine is making healthy people sick.” Then, according to Van Els, the plug can be pulled from the research immediately.
These are the vaccines served by the European Union. You can also see the number of vaccines that will become available in the Netherlands if the results are good:
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