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Coronavirus vaccine could be ready by this time next year, says EU drugs agency

Official says he doubts one will be available by September

Zoe Tidman
Thursday 14 May 2020 10:46 BST
Everything you need to know about the coronavirus vaccine being tested on humans

A coronavirus vaccine could be ready for approval in a year’s time in an “optimistic” scenario, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has said.

The head of vaccines for the EMA – the body which approves medicines for the European Union – said he had doubts over claims one could be available by September.

Dr Marco Cavaleri said: “For vaccines, since the development has to start from scratch ... we might look from an optimistic side in a year from now, so beginning of 2021.”

More than 100 potential vaccines for Covid-19 are being worked on worldwide, with clinical trials under way for several of them.

Scientists at the University of Oxford started a human trial for their possible vaccine last month.

Results for this could available by June, according to an expert.

Professor Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, said “several hundred” people have been vaccinated in the trial.

The challenge now is to be able to manufacture at scale once it is approved by the regulators, he said.

As the world rushes to develop a vaccine, the EU – which includes some of the countries hardest hit by the virus – fears it may not have sufficient supplies, especially if a vaccine were developed in the US or China.

Mr Cavaleri said the EMA, in communication with more than 30 developers, was doing all it could to speed up the approval process. However, he said he was sceptical one would be ready in four months’ time.

He ruled out the possibility of skipping the third phase of a vaccine trial, which he said would be needed to be sure a vaccine is safe and effective.

A spokesperson for the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned earlier this week that coronaviruses are “very tricky viruses” which are “difficult to produce vaccines against”.

The health body – which is leading a global initiative to develop safe and effective vaccines, tests and treatments for Covid-19 – said in April that a coronavirus vaccine would take at least 12 months.

The EMA is also looking at 115 different therapeutics, or treatments, for the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 300,000 people globally.

Mr Cavaleri said some of those therapeutics could be approved in Europe as early as this summer, but he did not specify which.

More than 4.35 million people have tested positive for coronavirus in the world as of Thursday.

Additional reporting by agencies

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