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Roche CEO warns against high hopes for speedy covid vaccines

A diagnostics site for Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche is seen as the company said problems at a new warehouse delayed the dispatch of some products, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Burgess Hill, Britain. (REUTERS)Premium
A diagnostics site for Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche is seen as the company said problems at a new warehouse delayed the dispatch of some products, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Burgess Hill, Britain. (REUTERS)

  • Companies need time to test the candidates in enough people to be sure they’re safe and then scale up production
  • Roche isn’t working on a coronavirus vaccine, it’s partnering with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. on a potential treatment

Many people’s hopes for a speedy coronavirus vaccine are still too high, Roche Holding AG Chief Executive Officer Severin Schwan warned, adding to the chorus of drug industry leaders trying to temper expectations.

It is “completely unrealistic" to expect a Covid-19 vaccine to be widely available by the end of this year, and most people probably won’t have access to a shot until the second half of 2021, Schwan said in an interview with Bloomberg TV anchor Francine Lacqua. Companies need time to test the candidates in enough people to be sure they’re safe and then scale up production, he said. Though Roche isn’t working on a coronavirus vaccine, it’s partnering with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. on a potential treatment.

“There’s a danger here, because if you set up wrong expectations then people get frustrated and they give up," Schwan said. “If you have realistic expectations, then you keep the people aligned and you keep them behind you, and you have the credibility you need as a leader."

Schwan is the latest to call for a more realistic outlook as rising infection rates and stricter Covid restrictions fuel public frustration. In Europe, the first lockdowns are coming back into effect as governments realize that a piecemeal approach hasn’t been enough to curb the spread of the virus.

President Donald Trump has said he believed the U.S. would have a vaccine “very, very shortly" but acknowledged for the first time earlier this month that it was not likely to come until after the Nov. 3 election.

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan cited a similar late-2021 timeline in an interview last month. Pfizer Inc., one of the leaders in the vaccine race, said last week it wouldn’t be able to apply for an emergency authorization for use in the U.S. before late November of this year and that it will need to continue monitoring safety for two years. And because not everyone will choose to get the shot, Covid-19 will probably be endemic even if a vaccine is available, said David Ricks, CEO of Eli Lilly & Co.


This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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