MILAN (Reuters) – The European Medicines Agency could approve three COVID-19 vaccines early next year, its Executive Director Guido Rasi said on Friday, according to a report by Italian news agency ANSA.
“If everything goes well, in the first months of 2021, there could be three vaccines approved by EMA. But everything has to go well. There’s a little hitch behind every corner,” the agency quoted Rasi as telling Sky TG24 news in an interview.
It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to have any vaccine ready for use this year, Rasi was quoted as saying, adding first shots for people at higher risk for severe illness could be available by the spring.
EMA is reviewing candidate vaccines by drug makers Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna under a real-time release process, in a bid to speed up the approval if trials of any of those vaccines are successful.
Real-time reviews could speed up the approval process by allowing researchers to submit findings in real time, without waiting for studies to conclude.
The arrival of the vaccine would only be “the beginning of the end of the pandemic, not the end,” the official warned.
He added that measures like social distancing and the use of protective masks will remain necessary as it will take at least six months to understand whether the vaccine is effective in reducing the spread of the virus.
Reporting by Elvira Pollina, editing by James Mackenzie and Elaine Hardcastle