Widespread coronavirus vaccination could begin in the middle of next year, the chief scientist of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Soumya Swaminathan, has said.
She expressed cautious optimism about the state of the research and development process in an interview with dpa.
“We have now over 20 candidates in clinical studies.
“So, we are hopeful that a couple of them will work. It would be very unlucky if all of them fail,” Swaminathan added.
“So, if we are very practical, then we are looking at the middle of 2021 when we will have a vaccine that can be widely deployed,” she said, adding: “Of course, it’s impossible to predict.”
Swaminathan said the global race to develop a vaccine had been “the fastest timeline we have ever seen”, noting that there were only three months between the time the virus’ genetic sequence was published in January and the time the first trial began.
The novel coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China, late last year.
It has since spread to almost every corner of the globe, killing more than 600,000 people and infecting more than 14 million.
The U.S. leads the world in confirmed cases.
The pandemic’s epicentre has shifted from China to Europe, to the Americas, leading to lockdowns and tough restrictions on public life and travel.
Some places where the virus was brought under control are seeing an uptick in cases, fanning fears of a second wave of infections and a new round of restrictions.