The beer and beauty fame of the Belgian town about to save the world

The beer and beauty fame of the Belgian town that is about to save the world with a miracle Covid vaccine that could finally turn the tide on the pandemic

  • The Belgian town of Puurs holds a festival in honour of its bountiful asparagus
  • Now it has a new bumper crop, and it is hoping to export it very soon – a vaccine
  • Hundreds of thousands of doses are rolling off the production line at Pfizer’s hub 

Each spring, the Belgian town of Puurs holds a festival in honour of its bountiful asparagus – or ‘white gold’ as it is called locally.

But now it has a new bumper crop, and it is hoping to export it very soon – a miracle vaccine that could finally turn the tide on the coronavirus pandemic.

In anticipation of regulatory approval, hundreds of thousands of doses are already rolling off the production line at Pfizer’s hub in the sleepy town which lies midway between Brussels and Antwerp.

Hundreds of thousands of doses are already rolling off the production line at Pfizer’s hub in the sleepy town which lies midway between Brussels and Antwerp. Pictured: Pfizer facility in Puurs, Belgium

Its mayor, Koen Van den Heuvel, joked that residents have been asking him to put in a good word with the pharmaceutical giant so they get the first doses.

‘Lots of people have asked me if there’s a chance they can have priority access,’ he smiled. ‘But Pfizer has contracts.’

Puurs is little more than an intersection of two roads with a church, school, chemist and delicatessen. Asparagus grows in the surrounding fields, thanks to the soil’s high sand content.

Until last week, Puurs was best known as the home of Dina Tersago (pictured), a former Miss Belgium who hosts a reality TV show matchmaking women with single Flemish farmers

For years, Puurs has also been home to the Moortgat brewery which produces the strong Duvel beer.

But its fortunes changed in the 1960s when tax breaks began to lure major US multinational firms to Belgium. They included Pfizer’s predecessor Upjohn, which established a base which now employs 3,000 people.

Until last week, Puurs was best known as the home of Dina Tersago, a former Miss Belgium who hosts a reality TV show matchmaking women with single Flemish farmers.

For years, Puurs has also been home to the Moortgat brewery which produces the strong Duvel beer (pictured)

Now the talk of the town is the announcement by Pfizer and Bio‑NTech that their vaccine is more than 90 per cent effective in preventing people from getting Covid. Optimism is, however, cautious in Puurs.

Local pharmacist, Jo Verstuyft, said: ‘As a resident I feel very proud but as a chemist I know that it may not be the solution. The virus could mutate and then the vaccine may only be good for a few months.’

A recent job advert on Pfizer’s Puurs plant website was seeking ‘a vaccine maker.’ With more than a billion doses planned by the end of next year, it may not be the last. Pictured: Pfizer facility in Puurs, Belgium

But another local called Clothide cannot wait to join the queue for the jab. ‘I’ve had cancer and I’m at risk. I’ve had the flu shot, so I want the Covid vaccine too. I used to work at Upjohn a long time ago. I know that vaccines work.’

A recent job advert on Pfizer’s Puurs plant website was seeking ‘a vaccine maker.’ With more than a billion doses planned by the end of next year, it may not be the last.

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