Officials hope a coronavirus vaccine could be ready by the end of 2020 - but the NHS says messages are mixed

Hopes have been raised that a vaccine for coronavirus may be approved as early as the end of this year, with healthcare workers first in line for a dose.

America's leading expert in infectious diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci, has said that the end of November or early December could see further information on whether a vaccine was safe and effective.

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Additionally, Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar - who is also a doctor - told RTE on Sunday, “I’m increasingly optimistic, as is government, that we will see a vaccine approved in the next couple of months and that in the first half or first quarter of next year it’ll be possible to start vaccinating those most at risk."

Both remarks come in the wake of a report from The Mail on Sunday which suggested that the UK is preparing to begin immunising NHS staff within weeks.

Mixed reports

The Mail published a memo from Glen Burley, chief executive of a group of hospitals in the Midlands, in which Burley said NHS care providers have been told to prepare for a Covid-19 staff vaccine programme in early December.

Part of the memo, sent earlier this month, read, “The latest intelligence states a coronavirus vaccine should be available this year with NHS staff prioritised prior to Christmas."

However, NHS sources have contradicted this information, saying that while hospitals are indeed preparing plans to help roll out any vaccine that arrives, the timescale given by Burley in the memo is premature and overly ambitious.

“There is no progress at all [on when a vaccine will arrive], no date, no national steer [from NHS England bosses] and only frustration,” a senior NHS official told The Guardian.

Additionally, the UK government's chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, told MPs and peers that a vaccine wouldn't be available until at least spring 2021.

It's likely that, if a vaccine does arrive, healthcare workers, along with those with underlying health issues will be prioritised for a dose.