Coronavirus vaccine possible in about a year, EU agency says

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A vaccine against the new coronavirus could be approved in about a year in an “optimistic” scenario, an agency that approves drugs for the European Union announced on Thursday.

As the world rushes to develop a vaccine, the European Union, hard hit by COVID-19, is concerned that it will not have enough supplies, especially if a vaccine has been developed in the United States or China.

The European Medicines Agency, in communication with 33 developers, has done everything in its power to speed up the approval process, said EMA chief vaccine officer Marco Cavaleri. He was skeptical of claims that everything could be ready by September.

“For vaccines, since development has to start from scratch … we could look optimistic in a year, so early 2021,” he told reporters.

He ruled out the possibility of skipping the third phase of a vaccine trial, which he said would be necessary to be sure a vaccine was safe and effective.

Eyeing over 100 treatments

The EMA is also examining 115 different therapies or treatments for the coronavirus, which has caused nearly 300,000 deaths worldwide, according to data from the World Health Organization.

Cavaleri said some of these therapies could be approved in Europe as early as this summer, but did not say which ones.

Leading EU lawmaker says EU should circumvent pharmaceutical companies’ intellectual property rights if vaccine is developed outside the bloc, another sign of EU fear of falling behind in the world race.

“If a vaccine is first developed outside of Europe, we must do everything in our power to make the vaccine effectively available in all countries,” said Peter Liese, a leading member of the the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Germany, along with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“We are counting on dialogue and cooperation, but we must also expect others to reject dialogue and cooperation. That’s why we need a Plan B, “said Liese.

The U.S. and China have been reluctant to support an EU-sponsored global fundraising campaign, which raised $ 8 billion US ($ 11.3 billion Canadian) this month to research, manufacture and distribute a vaccine and possible treatments for COVID-19.

Liese called on EU governments and the European Commission to consider deviating from the rules of the World Trade Organization which allows states to produce generic drugs without the consent of the pharmaceutical companies that first developed them and which still hold intellectual property rights.

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