Research groups will further investigate the effect of COVID-19 vaccines in patients with immune disorders, cancer or a transplantation. These research projects are part of the COVID-19 research programme, and each project has received a grant from ZonMw.

a nurse holding a vaccine with gloves


On behalf of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and in collaboration with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), ZonMw is focusing in these studies on optimising the effect of COVID-19 vaccination in groups of patients who have an immune system disorder. This includes patients with malignancies, immune disorders and other patient populations not identified in previous studies.

The research to be funded supplements RIVM’s research in the context of monitoring and evaluating national vaccination programmes and also the research carried out by the vaccine manufacturers. The patients will be vaccinated as part of the government’s vaccination strategy against COVID-19. The new research projects will provide knowledge for patients and those treating them, and it will support an optimum use of vaccines in these groups.

Patients with an immune system disorder

The vaccines currently available are mainly, but not limited to, vaccines tested by the manufacturers on relatively healthy adults. Specific risk groups, such as people with certain diseases, obesity, Down’s syndrome, pregnant women and certain age categories (dependent on the maximum age of the people selected for the vaccine study) are only partly included in these studies. The registration authorities have approved the vaccines for these target groups as well. However, additional research into these groups is still needed to provide us with more insights into the immune response to vaccine antigens in patients with a less well-functioning immune system. Such a less well-functioning immune system could be due to birth defect or it could be caused by a transplantation or immune-modulating treatments (chemotherapy, immunotherapy).

Studies will initially focus on patients with autoimmune diseases who are treated with immunosuppressive drugs, patients with primary immune deficiencies or immune disorders, cancer patients (solid tumours) who are treated with chemotherapy and/or immunotherapy, patients with a kidney transplant and dialysis patients, lung transplant patients and people with Down’s syndrome. The RIVM will investigate the immune response in the general population, including the elderly.

Prepared for new pandemics

Within the ZonMw and RIVM projects, standardised protocols and measurement methods are used that have been internationally agreed upon. This means that overarching research across the different vaccines and populations is possible. The knowledge developed through national and international collaboration and analysis will ensure that we are better prepared for the use of vaccines in any possible new pandemics.

More information

•    Read more about research into the coronavirus and COVID-19

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