Janssen Pharmaceutica starts test on humans of its prototype coronavirus vaccine

The pharmaceuticals company Janssen Pharmaceutica has started testing on humans of a vaccine that it hopes will offer protection against the novel coronavirus. The company that is based in Beerse in Antwerp Province is a division of the American multinational Johnson & Johnson. The tests will be carried out both here in Belgium and in the United States. The original plan was to commence testing on humans in September. However, research on the development of the vaccine is running ahead of schedule. 

Clinical testing of the vaccine officially gets under way today. However, the first healthy volunteers for the tests were vaccinated last week. A total of 1,000 people will take part in the clinical trials. At this stage tests will be carried out to see if the vaccine is safe, what any possible side effects might be and how the immune system reacts to it. The Head of Janssen Pharmaceutica’s vaccine programme Johan Van Hoof told VRT News that only at a later stage will the effectiveness of the vaccine be tested.  

"We hope to initiate this stage in September. Then many more people will be recruited and we will really look into whether the vaccine is effective in protecting people against the virus or whether it prevents serious illness resulting from it”.

If everything goes to plan Mr Van Hoof hopes that the vaccine should be ready sometime during the first half of next year.

"We remain cautiously optimistic based on what we have observed during tests on animals. However, we are not going to say that it works before we have real results”. 

Enough vaccines for everyone?

Janssen Pharmaceutica says that it is in talks with governmental and aid agencies to see how, if it proves effective, the vaccine can be distributed as widely as possible. Mr Van Hoof added that initially it will be necessary to prioritise certain sections of the population.

Meanwhile, the company is expanding its global production capacity. If the vaccine proves effective, Janssen Pharmaceutica will be able to produce 1 billion doses of it in 2021.

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