In 2021 globally, more than three million people died of COVID-19 - the novel coronavirus disease. Our scientists have been fully committed to limiting the impact of the disease and have joined forces with experts in Belgium and abroad to map the epidemic, find treatments through biomedical research and clinical trials and study its impact on people and society. ITM is a part of BelCoVac - a consortium of nine Belgian research, public health and higher education institutions. This initiative brought together several non-commercial clinical trials and follow-up projects in the context of COVID-19 vaccines marketed in Belgium. Thanks to their work, research on COVID-19 vaccines is conducted, recorded and reported in a uniform way. The ITM virology lab was instrumental in providing the virus-neutralising antibody results in our high-security laboratories.
The IMCOVAS study investigated whether vaccines already approved in Europe are equally effective when administered according to a different schedule or dosage than prescribed in the package leaflet. ITM was one of the four test centres in Belgium. This clinical trial was one of the three on COVID-19 vaccines at ITM. Altogether they involved more than 800 participants.
Our project on ‘vulnerable populations and COVID-19’ continued in 2021. The project team assisted the cities of Antwerp and Lier in training volunteers of different ethnic backgrounds to promote COVID-19 prevention in their communities. Furthermore, within a transdisciplinary collaboration, ITM researchers assessed vaccine sentiments to guide Belgian public health authorities on how to promote vaccine acceptance among the population. ITM has also been involved in many COVID-19 studies worldwide, working with international partners. The ANTICOV consortium aims to identify COVID-19 treatments that can prevent hospitalisation and disease progression in mild to moderate but higher risk COVID-19 patients. The trial is currently being conducted in 13 African countries with researchers from leading African institutions in the driver’s seat. ITM has been working closely with its partners in Ethiopia and is sponsor of the clinical trials in Gondar and Bahir Dar. ITM is also leading both nested studies on the impact of early treatment on patient immunity generation in six African countries, and on the transmission of the virus in households in five further African countries.