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Germany's government has given grants to three biotech companies to help speed up the development of a coronavirus vaccine. But Berlin warned it was unlikely any vaccine will be available before the middle of next year.
German companies are developing "promising" coronavirus vaccine candidates, but it might take until the middle of 2021 for one of them to be widely available to the public, German Research Minister Anja Karliczek said Wednesday.
The minister said the government was providing funding grants to three German biotech firms — CureVac from Tübingen, BioNTech from Mainz and Dessau-based IDT Biologika — to help speed up progress on their potential vaccines.
"All three of them are promising candidates but we must of course always expect setbacks during the testing phase because it's one thing to have an effective vaccine, but it's another to have a safe vaccine that people want," Karliczek said at a press conference.
The announcement came after Germany's disease control agency voiced concern over a sharp rise in infections in recent days, warning that negligence was to blame.
Vaccine 'miracle' unrealistic
Karliczek said people in Germany should continue to adhere to social distancing and hygiene rules to limit further infection.
"We should not expect a miracle," she said. "We must continue to assume that vaccines for the broader population will only be available from the middle of next year at the earliest."
The money for the three German companies is from a pot of €750 million ($882 million) that the government announced in May. The funding is designed to scale up clinical testing and the production and distribution of a vaccine.
In return for the grants, the government expects that "an appropriate amount of the production of an approved vaccine will be made available for demand-driven supply in Germany," Karliczek said.
"All citizens who wish to be vaccinated should be given the opportunity to be vaccinated," she added.
Scientists around the world are racing to produce a vaccine for the coronavirus. At least 140 candidates are in various stages of development, including 23 that have entered human trials. According to the World Health Organization, only five candidates have entered Phase 3 clinical trials, the final regulatory hurdle before approval.
nm/sms (AFP, Reuters)