Coronavirus vaccine could be available by end of 2020, says WHO head

More than 160 countries have joined WHO's Covax vaccine facility

In this photo released by WHO, World Health Organisation on Monday, Oct. 5, 2020,  WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, wearing a mask to protect against coronavirus, gestures during a special session on the COVID-19 respnse. The head of emergencies at the World Health Organization says its “best estimates” indicate that roughly 1 in 10 people worldwide may have been infected by the coronavirus.  (Christopher Black/WHO via AP)

A vaccine against the coronavirus may be ready by the end of the year, the head of the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday.

WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for solidarity and political commitment by all leaders to ensure equal distribution of vaccines when they become available.

"We will need vaccines and there is hope that by the end of this year we may have a vaccine. There is hope," Dr Tedros told the WHO's executive board meeting that examined the global response to the pandemic.

The EU health regulator has launched a review of a Covid-19 vaccine developed by US drug maker Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech, it said on Tuesday, after a similar announcement for rival AstraZeneca's treatment last week.

The announcement by the European Medicines Agency could speed up the process of approving a successful vaccine in the bloc.

Nine experimental vaccines are in the pipeline of the Covax global vaccine facility, which aims to distribute 2 billion doses by the end of 2021.

So far some 168 countries have joined Covax, but China, the US and Russia have not.

The Trump administration has said it is relying instead on bilateral deals to secure supplies from vaccine makers.

"Especially for the vaccines and other products that are in the pipeline, the most important tool is political commitment from our leaders especially in the equitable distribution of the vaccines," Dr Tedros said.

"We need each other, we need solidarity and we need to use all the energy we have to fight the virus."