There may not be enough doses of coronavirus vaccines until May 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, amid a flurry of activity among drug-makers and governments to get various jabs authorized and distributed.

“We are not going to have sufficient vaccination in place to prevent another surge of cases for at least another three-to-six months,” the chief of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, Michael Ryan, said during a live-streamed Q&A event on Wednesday.

Before mass inoculation is possible, Ryan said that the number of cases will “bounce back up,” even in countries that are currently “winning the battle” against Covid-19.

We will have another wave before we get the vaccine and more people will die and more health workers will become exhausted.

The comments were made soon after the UK became the first country in the world to authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday as an emergency measure, with the jab set to be rolled out next week.

President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia would launch its mass vaccination program by the end of next week, with teachers and medics first in line for the country’s Sputnik V jab.

US President Donald Trump has also asked for American biotech company Moderna’s vaccine candidate to be approved by health regulators there, while in the UK, health secretary Matt Hancock has called for the jab developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford to be assessed for possible approval.

There are currently 51 vaccine candidates undergoing clinical trials on humans and a further 163 in preclinical evaluation, according to WHO data.

During his closing remarks at Wednesday’s WHO briefing, Ryan light-heartedly compared the wait for coronavirus vaccines to a scene in the Shrek movie, where the character Donkey repeatedly asks, “are we there yet?” 

The emergencies chief added, “we’re not there yet,” as he also stressed that vaccines are not a “replacement” for public health measures designed to stem the spread of coronavirus. He added that inoculating people would help save more lives and that vaccines are a “massive addition to the armory” needed to tackle the virus.

Worldwide, there have been more than 64 million recorded cases of Covid-19 and almost 1.5 million deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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