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LONDON – Hopes are rising that a Covid-19 vaccine could be approved by the end of the year. Drug manufacturers and research centers are working hard to end the pandemic.
According to the World Health Organization, dozens of vaccine candidates are in clinical evaluation. Some are already doing late-stage testing before applying for formal approval.
The results of the tests are closely monitored worldwide.
The leading US expert on infectious diseases believes it will only be a few weeks before the results of a potential vaccine become known.
"We'll know if a vaccine is safe and effective by late November, early December," said White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, on Sunday in a BBC interview.
"The question is, if 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 that is believed to be safe and effective would be launched according to a set prioritization, with people such as healthcare workers and those in a higher risk category likely to receive the first doses. He said it would be "a few months until 2021" for a vaccine to become more widely available.
Developing a vaccine, Fauci warned, would not for some time replace the need for public health action to protect people from the disease.
To date, more than 43 million people worldwide have contracted the coronavirus, with 1.15 million deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
In the race for a Covid vaccine, governments have tried to support the process by providing funds that companies can use to expand production even before drugs are approved.
Leo Varadkar, Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister, said he was confident that a vaccination against the coronavirus could be approved before the end of the year.
"Like the government, I am increasingly optimistic that a vaccine will be approved in the next few months and that vaccination of the most vulnerable people can begin in the first half or first quarter of next year." Varadkar, a qualified doctor, told RTE Radio on Sunday.
A rehab support agent reviews patients' notes as the first patients are admitted to the NHS Seacole Center on Headley Court in Surrey, a disused military hospital that was remodeled during the coronavirus pandemic.
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However, not all public health experts are equally optimistic about developing a Covid vaccine before the end of the year.
Sunday's mail reported that plans were being made for frontline workers in the National Health Service to receive a coronavirus vaccine within a few weeks, citing an email sent to his staff by an NHS Trust chief .
In response to the report, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Monday it was not the government's expectation for NHS workers to have access to a potential vaccine this year.
He ruled out the possibility of a Covid vaccine being delivered to hospital staff in 2020, but said most of the rollout was expected to take place in the first half of next year.
UK senior scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said he doesn't think a Covid vaccine will be available for widespread community use until at least spring.
He told the National Security Strategy Committee in London last week that the coronavirus was likely to become as endemic as the annual flu.
This means that like other coronaviruses, the infection rate of the coronavirus will eventually stabilize at a constant level so that the virus is present in communities at all times.
Vallance said it took an average of about 10 years to make a vaccine from scratch. The fastest vaccine ever developed was for mumps and lasted more than four years.
This April 10, 2020 illustration shows small bottles with the "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe.
Dado Ruvic | Reuters
Regardless of this, Dr. David Heymann, who headed the WHO's Infectious Diseases Division during the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003, believes that some governments may be overreaching at a time when effective communication, diagnostic testing and outbreak control measures are in place Dependent on vaccine development are all critically important tools.
"The difficulty right now is that in many countries they are looking forward to a vaccine that may or may not come, that may or may not be effective in the short or long term, and they are looking for possible therapeutic (options) that could many of the Solving problems, "Heymann said during a webinar for the Chatham House think tank last week.
"But that's not a good way to continue right now. … We need to learn to live with the pandemic."