A COVID vaccine could be ready for distribution by as early as Christmas, after reaching its “last mile” of development, reports suggest.
The government has already bought up 40 million doses of the drug, from German firm BioNtech and backed by pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer, according to The Times.
Each person would need two doses of the vaccine, meaning up to 20 million people could be inoculated.
It is one of six vaccines currently in trials, including one developed by Oxford University, that the government has secured early access to.
Pfizer said it hopes to have produced 100 million doses globally by the end of the year if it passes trials, with a further billion doses made in 2021.
The vaccine must pass safety trials before it can be considered for use, which means it will not be ready until the third week of November.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told The Times: “We have reached the last mile.
“Let’s all have the patience required for something so important for health and the global economy.”
Watch: Thousands volunteer to take part in UK vaccine trials
Meanwhile, the national clinical director of Scotland has said Scots could also be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Christmas.
Jason Leitch told the BBC’s Drivetime With John Beattie that while officials do not expect a vaccine “in days” they are receiving encouraging vaccine news.
Beattie said: “London hospitals have been told to be on standby for this Oxford Astra vaccine by Monday 2 November.”
There are more than 200 vaccine candidates in development around the world, with 44 in clinical trials.
Of the 44, nine are in the phase three stage of clinical evaluation and are being given to thousands of people to confirm safety and effectiveness.
An effective vaccine is one that can act against infection, disease, or transmission – potentially keeping the COVID-19 pandemic under control.
The UK has bought up 340 million doses of six prototype vaccines – more than any other country.
However, Dr Susanne Hodgson, of the University of Oxford, said it was “unlikely that we will see a single vaccine winner in the race against COVID-19”.
She added: “Different technologies will bring distinct advantages that are relevant in different situations, and additionally, there will probably be challenges with manufacturing and supplying a single vaccine at the scale required, at least initially.”
The government announced last week that it is putting £33.6m towards human challenge studies, with trials set to begin in early January 2021.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday that the “bulk” of the roll-out of a coronavirus vaccine could occur before next summer, and did not rule out some batches being available this year.
Asked about reports that NHS staff could soon be injected with a vaccine, he said: “Well, we’re not there yet.
“The vaccine programme is progressing well. We’re in very close contact with the leading candidates.
“On my central expectation, I would expect the bulk of the rollout to be in the first half of next year.”
Asked if there could be some this year, he said: “Well, I don’t rule that out, but that is not my central expectation.”
Watch: ‘More than one vaccine will be available in 2021’