Researchers are making “good progress” in developing vaccines against COVID-19, but their first use cannot be expected until early 2021, a World Health Organisation expert says.

The WHO is working hard to ensure fair distribution of the vaccines, but in the meantime it is most important to suppress the spread of the coronavirus, executive director of WHO’s emergencies program Mike Ryan said.

“We’re making good progress,” Ryan said on Wednesday, noting that several vaccines were now in phase 3 trials and none had failed, so far, in terms of safety or ability to generate an immune response.

“Realistically it is going to be the first part of next year before we start seeing people getting vaccinated,” he told a public event on social media.

The WHO was working to expand access to potential vaccines and to help scale up production capacity, Ryan said.

“And we need to be fair about this, because this is a global good. Vaccines for this pandemic are not for the wealthy, they are not for the poor, they are for everybody,” he said.

The US government has pledged to pay $US1.95 billion ($A2.73 billion) to buy 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Pfizer and German biotech BioNTech if it proves safe and effective, the companies said earlier on Wednesday.

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AAP