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The race is on to produce a vaccine against Covid-19 but it is not certain that one can be found, the head of the global vaccines alliance has said.

Seth Berkley, head of the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, said the more competition the better in the scientific fightback against the virus.

He added confidence in an eventual Covid-19 vaccine would be greatly boosted if political leaders were seen getting immunised, saying he was “quite disturbed” by highly-politicised campaigns against vaccination.

“One of the challenges is we don’t know if we can make a vaccine,” Berkley said at a virtual press briefing in Geneva.

“I’m quite optimistic, from what I know on the science – but we have no proof of concept yet.”

While a vaccine might normally take 10 to 15 years to develop, Berkley said the first vaccines against Covid-19 might be available in 12 to 18 months “if we’re really lucky”.

“You want initially the race for the vaccine. That competition is great,” he said, explaining that rather than having dozens of vaccines being worked on that eventually were identical, it was better to have varied ones that acted differently.

There are currently over 100, and possibly up to 150 different vaccines in various stages of development, he said.