Pfizer voiced hope Thursday it could roll out up to 20 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine it is developing with German firm Biontech for emergency use by the end of 2020.
The two companies are working on four possible vaccines against the new coronavirus, and launched clinical trials using volunteers in Germany earlier this month.
The head of the US pharma giant's vaccines unit, Nanette Cocero, told a virtual briefing Thursday that the companies were moving forward to ramp up clinical trials and manufacturing capabilities in parallel to be able to produce a large number of doses as soon as a vaccine is demonstrated to be safe and efficient.
It can take years for a new vaccine to be licensed for general use, but in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, experimental vaccines shown to be safe and effective against the novel coronavirus could likely win approval for emergency use.
The virus, which first surfaced in China late last year, has killed nearly 230,000 people and infected close to 3.2 million worldwide, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.
Assuming the safety and efficacy of one of the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine candidates is proven in clinical trials -- something Cocero said could happen "hopefully in the coming months" -- production will follow quickly.
"We are looking to ramp up manufacturing rather quickly to have around 10 to 20 million doses by the end of this year," she said, adding that they would be available for "an emergency use type of setting."
The World Health Organization has warned that developing and rolling out even an experimental vaccine could take 12 to 18 months, but companies are rushing to speed up the process.
More than 100 labs around the world are scrambling to come up with a vaccine, but only seven are currently in clinical trials, according to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.