Covid-19 vaccine unlikely ready until early 2021: WHO

Published 6 hours ago

GENEVA Researchers are making "good progress" in developing vaccines against Covid-19, with a handful in late-stage trials, but their first use cannot be expected until early next year, a World Health Organisation (WHO) expert said.

WHO is working hard to ensure fair distribution of the vaccines, but in the meantime the key is to suppress the spread of the coronavirus, said Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's emergencies programme, as daily new cases around the globe are at near-record levels.

"We're making good progress," Dr Ryan said on Wednesday, noting that several vaccines were now in phase three trials and none had failed, so far, in terms of safety or ability to generate an immune response.

"Realistically, it is going to be the first part of next year before we start seeing people getting vaccinated," he told a public event on social media.

WHO was working to expand access to potential vaccines and to help scale up production capacity, Dr Ryan said.

"And we need to be fair about this, because this is a global good. Vaccines for this pandemic are not for the wealthy, they are not for the poor, they are for everybody," he said.

The United States government will pay US$1.95 billion (S$2.7 billion) to buy 100 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Pfizer and German biotech BioNTech, if it proves safe and effective, the companies said earlier on Wednesday.

Dr Ryan also cautioned schools to be careful about reopening until community transmission of Covid-19 is under control.

Debate in the US over restarting education has intensified, even as the pandemic flares up in dozens of states.