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German institute says coronavirus vaccinations could start in early 2021

BERLIN, Aug 19 (Reuters) – The head of Germany’s vaccines regulator said some groups of people living in Germany could be vaccinated early next year against the coronavirus that has killed hundreds of thousands and wreaked havoc on the global economy.

More than half a dozen drugmakers around the world are conducting advanced clinical trials, each with tens of thousands of participants, and several expect to know if their COVID-19 vaccines work and are safe by the end of this year.

Klaus Cichutek, head of the Paul Ehrlich Institut, told the Funke group of newspapers that data from Phase I and Phase II trials showed some vaccines triggered an immune response against the coronavirus.

“If data from Phase III trials shows the vaccines are effective and safe, the first vaccines could be approved at the beginning of the year, possibly with conditions attached,” he said.

“Based on assurances from manufacturers, the first doses for people in Germany will be available at that time, in accordance with the priorities set by the Standing Committee on Vaccination,” Cichutek said, referring to the group that makes recommendations for the use of licensed vaccines in Germany.

The coronavirus has infected more than 22 million people worldwide since first being detected in China late last year. Almost 800,000 have died.

Several companies, including Moderna, AstraZeneca , and Pfizer Inc, say they each expect to make more than 1 billion doses of a vaccine next year.

German biotechnology firm CureVac has not ruled out a speedy approval process for its prospective vaccine and expects to have it on the market by mid-2021.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia had become the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing. Russia has said the vaccine will be rolled out by the end of this month.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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