The top US expert on infectious diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci says he is confident that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready by early next year.
Fauci, who is helping to guide the US government's coronavirus response, told a House of Representatives subcommittee on Friday he is "cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this year and as we go into 2021."
Fauci suggested that a safe and effective vaccine could be ready for distribution in 2021, but that a mass nationwide vaccination should not be expected right away. He said there will be a priority list based on recommendations from scientific advisers.
A vaccine being developed in the United States by the National Institutes of Health in collaboration with the pharmaceutical firm Moderna entered a final phase human trial on Monday.
Potential vaccines are also in the final stages of development in Britain and China.
The European Union announced on Friday it has agreed with French drug maker Sanofi that the firm will supply the bloc with 300 million doses of a vaccine.
The European Commission said the envisaged contract with the company would provide for an option for all 27 EU member states to purchase the vaccine.
Separately, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy have formed a group to cooperate in procuring vaccines.
They have arranged for British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca to provide up to 400 million doses of vaccines to EU countries at original cost.
As of Friday, there have been more than 1.7 million infections in the European Union and surrounding countries. Cases have begun to surge again in some areas, raising concern about a second wave of infections.