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LONDON — Hopes are rising that a Covid-19 vaccine could be approved by the end of the year, with drugmakers and research centers scrambling to help bring an end to the pandemic.
Dozens of candidate vaccines are in clinical evaluation, according to the World Health Organization, with some already conducting late-stage tests before seeking formal approval.
The outcome of the trials is being closely monitored around the world.
The U.S.’s leading expert on infectious disease believes it will only be a matter of weeks before the findings of a potential vaccine will be known.
“We will know whether a vaccine is safe and effective by the end of November, the beginning of December,” White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a BBC interview on Sunday.
“The question is: Once you have a safe and effective vaccine, or more than one, how can you get it to the people who need it as quickly as possible?”
Fauci said a vaccine deemed safe and effective would be rolled out according to a set prioritization, with individuals such as health care workers and those in a higher risk category likely to receive the first doses. He said it would be “several months into 2021” before a vaccine becomes more widely available.
The development of a vaccine, Fauci warned, would not replace the need for public health measures to help protect people from the disease for some time.
To date, more than 43 million people have contracted the coronavirus worldwide, with 1.15 million related deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The race for a Covid vaccine has seen governments step in to try to help the process along by providing funds to allow companies to scale up manufacturing even before drugs have been approved.
Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, has said he is hopeful an inoculation against the coronavirus could be approved before the end of the year.
“I’m increasingly optimistic, as is government, that we will see a vaccine approved in the next couple of months and that in the first half or first quarter of next year it’ll be possible to start vaccinating those most at risk,” Varadkar, who is a qualified doctor, told RTE radio on Sunday.
A Rehab Support worker checks on patient notes as the first patients are admitted to the NHS Seacole Centre at Headley Court, Surrey, a disused military hospital, which has been converted during the coronavirus pandemic.
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Not all public health experts share the same level of optimism about the development of a Covid vaccine before year-end, however.
In response to the report, U.K. Health Minister Matt Hancock said on Monday that