The vaccination process in Germany is slowly picking up speed, but it could go considerably faster - if it weren't for the doubts about AstraZeneca's Corona vaccine which the EU carelessly spread. Confidence in the British vaccine is now gone due to cerebral venous thrombosis as a possible side effect, the vaccination stop, and the back and forth regarding the recommendation among most Germans. Numerous vaccination beneficiaries refuse vaccination with AstraZeneca.
The vaccine from Johnson & Johnson was also recently under discussion for also being able to trigger cerebral vein thrombosis. Only the two mRNA vaccines from Biontech and Moderna seem to be trustworthy so far. But there is another source of hope that could accelerate the vaccination process in Germany and create renewed confidence: the mRNA vaccine from the Tübingen-based biotech company CureVac.
The Tübingen-based company expects both the application for approval and the approval itself to be submitted in the second quarter of this year, said a CureVac spokesperson - approval could possibly even be granted as early as May. Clinical development is in the final phase and data for the rolling approval process by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are expected in time, according to CureVac, reports Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa). The German government is also already expecting CureVac's vaccine to be available in June.
Health expert Karl Lauterbach (SPD) recently called on Twitter for emergency approval for CureVac, saying gaps for "the large group of under-60s" urgently need to be filled. CureVac's Corona vaccine, CnCov, is currently being tested in an advanced phase with around 40,000 participants. In an additional study, this has also demonstrated complete protection against fatal infection by the South Africa virus variant B.1.351, it said.
Together with pharmaceutical company Bayer, CureVac is working to make the first generation of the vaccine available as quickly and widely as possible. The European Union has now secured 225 million doses and an option for 180 million more, CureVac said. The race for the first vaccine was clearly lost, major shareholder Dietmar Hopp declared back in September.
The vaccine is said to require a lower dosage of the active ingredient, which makes the vaccine more tolerable and also reduces production costs. In addition, CureVac's vaccine should be able to be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures.
The Tübingen-based company expects to be able to produce 300 million doses of its CnCov vaccine by the end of the year and even up to one billion doses in 2022. CureVac already has a concrete plan for how to achieve rapid production of the CureVac vaccine. The Tübingen-based company is relying primarily on a large number of partners throughout Europe.
"Wacker Chemie" wants to start production as early as this month at a plant in Amsterdam - about 100 million doses are to be produced this year, and 200 million next year, according to Manager Magazin. Similar plans are being pursued by the Belgian "Wavre" plant of "Glaxosmithkline". In addition, the Corona vaccine is to be filled by the Luxembourg contract manufacturer "Valneva" in two French plants from the end of May or beginning of June, according to the Paris Ministry of Economy.
"Novartis" is providing a plant in Austria for up to 50 million doses this year and 200 million next year. Swabian producer Rentschler Biopharma, announced in February it could supply up to 100 million vaccine doses annually. CureVac's vaccine is also to be filled in Heidelberg - at a Celonic plant. In addition, CureVac itself is building a large vaccine factory of its own in Tübingen, Germany, for one billion doses annually. But why is it taking so long for CureVac's Corona vaccine to be ready for approval? After all, Biontech was almost half a year faster?
Why is CureVac's vaccine taking so long to develop?
The company itself blames the length of time it took to develop the Corona vaccine on a lack of funding at the start of the pandemic last year. CureVac posted steep losses for fiscal 2020. Pre-tax losses were 129.8 million euros, CureVac reported. The losses were mainly due to high research and development costs for the Corona vaccine, it said. These have now been partly offset by federal funding, the company said.
Through the development bank KfW, the federal government has also indirectly owned just under one-third of the company since summer 2020. With this investment, Berlin wanted to protect the company against a possible takeover from abroad. According to its own figures, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is investing almost 1.6 billion euros in research into Covid-19 in 2020 and 2021, with around 627 million euros going to the vaccine manufacturers Biontech in Mainz and Curevac in Tübingen.
Image by Ali Raza