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Why pharma firms produce their vaccines in Flanders

Belgium and its northern region of Flanders are among the world’s powerhouses for vaccine production, especially in the face of COVID-19. Following Pfizer, which produces COVID-19 vaccines at its site in Puurs (Flanders), GSK has tasked its Belgian site with the production of 100 million doses of its CureVac vaccines. Meanwhile, the Rega Institute in Leuven, Janssen Pharmaceutica in Beerse, eTheRNA Immunotherapies in Niel, Ziphius Vacciness in Oostkamp and myNEO in Ghent are also working on coronavirus vaccines. Consequently, a big question comes to mind: why are so many vaccines produced in Belgium and Flanders?

Pharma valley

For David Gering, communication director at sector federation, the answer to that question is clear:

We have a ‘pharma valley’, a cluster of reputable pharmaceutical companies within a compact and easily accessible area. What’s more, we are one of the absolute top players when it comes to pharmaceutical R&D.

David Gering
communication director at

Three main reasons

The reason why is threefold. David Gering: “Firstly, Belgium employs highly educated scientists at our universities, companies and hospitals. Secondly, the government has decided to encourage pharmaceutical research by granting R&D tax breaks and other incentives that are very attractive for top researchers. Thirdly, there’s our central location and top-notch infrastructure, including the fact that Belgium has two airports – in Zaventem (Brussels Airport) and in Liège – that are certified to transport medicines.”

A tradition of pharma excellence

Another important contributing factor is tradition, with numerous pharmaceutical success stories rooted in Belgium and Flanders:

Pharmaceutical firms like Johnson & Johnson and GSK are leading players globally, but they both have backgrounds here.

Corinne Vandermeulen
vaccinologist at KU Leuven, Flanders’ oldest university

“Located in Beerse, Janssen Pharmaceutica was founded by Paul Janssen in the 1950s and is now the main research wing of US pharma giant Johnson & Johnson,” Corinne Vandermeulen adds. “Meanwhile, British group GSK also has its vaccine HQ in Rixensart, in Belgium’s Walloon region.” The company’s roots can be traced back to Leuven professor Pieter De Somer, who produced one of the world’s very first polio vaccines in Belgium.

More info
Reported by
newspaper De Standaard
16 February 2021

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