After announcing £71.7 million to German pharmaceutical firm CureVac, the German said discussions with its bosses have suggested a inoculation could be ready much sooner than industry predictions. On Monday she said: “They are working on a patent that has already been approved and gone through the specific processes that are necessary, so they are highly specialised in this field. And it is their prediction that they might be able towards fall to have a vaccine that is fighting coronavirus.”
But the European Medicines Agency has poured scorn on the claims, insisting a vaccine could take as many as 18 months before it is ready for market.
An EMA spokesman said: “We would estimate that it will take six months or more before candidate vaccines are tested in larger clinical studies, and 12-18 months before a vaccine against Covid-19 is ready for approval.”
The watchdog has vowed to push its work into overdrive to ensure coronavirus treatments and vaccines can be given to patients “as rapidly as possible”.
A statement added: “Ensuring a rapid response to Covid-19 is our number one priority.”
A special EMA task force has been set up “to work on this and the regulatory tools available to accelerate approval”.
CureVac bosses have stood by their previous pledge to have a vaccine ready by autumn.
Dietmar Hopp, the firm’s majority shareholder, said: “I think our new vaccine against coronavirus should be available by this autumn.
“That would be in time for the potential next wave of infections.
“Tests have to be carried out on animals, and then on people.
“The release date depends on Germany’s national institute for vaccines, the Paul Ehrlich Institute.”
According to reports in Germany, CureVac was the subject of attempts by US President Donald Trump to secure exclusive rights for a coronavirus vaccine for his country.
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Responding, Mr Hopp said: “If we want to develop an effective vaccine, this person must not only reach out and protect people, but also have solidarity with them.”
The billionaire businessman, who also owns German football club Hoffenheim, rejected the advances and insisted he intends to make the vaccine readily available world wide.
The German finance minister praised CureVac’s “great decision” to rebuke Mr Trump’s advances.
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Peter Altmaier said: “It was a great decision on part of the company’s management.
“With their decision to offer a possible vaccine to everyone, they sent a clear statement to everyone about their feelings towards the crisis, Germany is not for sale.”
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