Germany’s health minister said he expected a working vaccine for the coronavirus in the coming months or next year at the latest.
Jens Spahn gave the hopeful assessment after the German government’s public health agency withdrew a report suggesting a vaccine could be ready as soon as the autumn.
“I’m optimistic that in the next months, and certainly in the next year, there can be a vaccine,” Mr Spahn told ZDF television.
The health minister declined to name a specific month in which the vaccine would be ready, and said it was not yet possible to determine how long-lasting the immunity it conferred would be.
He added: “But one thing we can say is that thanks to us all working together – researchers, scientists, the public – we will probably have a vaccine faster than ever before in the history of humanity.”
His forecast appeared to chime with a report that the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) issued on Wednesday and later withdrew, in which the public health agency said it expected a vaccine by the autumn. The government institute later said the document was not up-to-date.
According to a report by Deutsche Welle, the RKI document stated: “Preliminary projections make the availability of one or several vaccines seem possible by autumn 2020.”
The German government is not basing its assessment about the prospects of a vaccine on Russia’s decision to grant regulatory approval to a Covid-19 vaccine.
Mr Spahn expressed scepticism about the vaccine announced by president Vladimir Putin, dubbed “Sputnik V” – saying it had not yet been broad tests like with other vaccines and there was relatively little data about it.
An employee shows new Russian vaccine at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Centre of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow (AP)
“To the best of our knowledge, it has not been sufficiently tested,” said the German minister.
Germany’s research minister Anja Karliczek has previously said any vaccine was unlikely to be widely available before the middle of next year.
The German biotech firm CureVac began human trials of an experimental Covid-19 vaccine in June – the second company in Germany to carry out trials.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,445 to 219,964 on Thursday, while the reported death toll rose by four to 9,211.