Don't expect first Covid-19 vaccinations until early 2021, WHO says

The agency is working to expand access to potential vaccines

A pedestrian wearing a protective mask passes in front of Pfizer Inc. headquarters in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. U.S. health officials agreed pay $1.95 billion for 100 million doses of a vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, the latest step in an effort to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg
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Researchers are making "good progress" in developing vaccines against Covid-19, with a handful in late-stage trials, but their first use cannot be expected until early 2021, a World Health Organisation expert said on Wednesday.

The agency is working hard to ensure fair distribution of the vaccines, but in the meantime it is important to suppress the spread of the virus, said Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's emergencies programme.

Daily new cases around the globe are at near-record levels.

"We're making good progress," Mr Ryan said.

Several vaccines are in phase 3 trials and none have failed, so far, in terms of safety or ability to generate an immune response, he said.

"Realistically it is going to be the first part of next year before we start seeing people getting vaccinated," he said.

The WHO was working to expand access to potential vaccines and to help scale-up production capacity, Mr Ryan said.

"And we need to be fair about this, because this is a global good. Vaccines for this pandemic are not for the wealthy, they are not for the poor, they are for everybody," he said.

The US government will pay $1.95 billion (Dh7.16bn) for 100 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Pfizer and German biotech company BioNTech if it proves safe and effective, the companies said on Wednesday.