European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the regulatory process for vaccines could be sped up as she defended a suggestion that a shot against coronavirus could be on the market “before autumn.”
That timeline is much faster than whats foreseen by public health authorities, who expect another year to 18 months for an immunization to be available to the general public.
Von der Leyen earlier on Tuesday expressed optimism following talks with CureVac, a biotech company working on a coronavirus vaccine. The EU has offered the company €80 million in financial backing. “I hope that with this support, we can have a vaccine on the market, perhaps before autumn,” she said.
Vaccines, like all medicines, need to undergo a series of clinical trials before authorities decide if they can be sold. Von der Leyen, a trained medical doctor, expressed confidence that in this case the normal procedures could be fast-tracked.
“As we are in a severe crisis, we all see that we are able to speed up any of the processes that are slow normally and take a lot of time and are very bureaucratic,” she told a later press conference.
Even though officials in both the U.S. and Europe have pledged to move as quickly as possible, theyve consistently cautioned that a vaccine wont be ready to jab in peoples arms in 2020.
“I still believe we will be lucky to get a vaccine for mass use in a year from the start of this,” Patrick Vallance, the U.K.s chief scientific adviser, told reporters Tuesday. “That would be extraordinary.”
Von der Leyen said her autumn aspirations came from CureVac itself. “They are highly specialized in this field, and its their prediction that they might be able, towards fall, to have the possibility to have a vaccine that is fighting coronavirus,” she said.
In an interview with German media site Sport1 published Monday, CureVac majority investor Dietmar Hopp said timing depends on the German national regulator. However, he added, the shot “ought to be available in autumn” in case the virus comes back after the summer.
On Tuesday, Thorsten Schüller, a CureVac spokesman, told POLITICO that going through all three phases of the clinical trials process normally takes “years,” but he declined to respond to von der Leyens predicted timeline.
Given the clamor for a coronavirus vaccine, he added, “We assume that the process will be shortened. This depends on the authorities.”
CureVac is at the center of a German-U.S. dispute, with Berlin accusing U.S. President Donald Trump of trying to poach the company and have its vaccines produced exclusively for the U.S. American officials have rejected reports about Trumps grab for vaccine exclusivity as “wildly overplayed.” The company echoed that denial on Tuesday.
Trump has been frequently contradicted by his governments public health experts after expressing hope that a coronavirus vaccine would be ready within months. The director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases