The director-general of the World Health Organisation has said a Covid-19 vaccine could be ready “by the end of this year”.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus did not elaborate on his words during a meeting of WHO’s executive board on Tuesday.
Calling for world leaders to commit to ensuring vaccines would be equally distributed when they become available, he said in his closing remarks: “We will need vaccines and there is hope that by the end of this year we may have a vaccine. There is hope.”
In the UK, the vaccine thought to be closest to the finishing line is that being developed by Oxford University, in collaboration with the pharmaceutical giant Astra Zeneca.
Nine experimental vaccines are in the pipeline of the WHO-led Covax global vaccine facility that aims to distribute two billion doses by the end of 2021.
“Especially for the vaccines and other products which are in the pipeline, the most important tool is political commitment from our leaders especially in the equitable distribution of the vaccines,” the director-general said.
“We need each other, we need solidarity and we need to use all the energy we have to fight the virus,” he said.
Prime minister Boris Johnson this week said that the most vulnerable would get priority in the UK when a vaccine was available.
He told reporters on Monday: “Obviously, if and when we get a vaccine then the crucial thing would be to ensure that we have sufficient supplies in this country, that we’re able to make it in this country, distribute it fast in this country, and clearly the priority for a vaccine will be those who are the most vulnerable groups.”
It comes as the PM mulls new social distancing restrictions, as the UK appears to be in the grip of a second wave of the disease, with growing numbers of infections, deaths and hospitalizations.