New Delhi: Regulators that normally work within their own countries or regions will likely harmonize efforts on potential COVID-19 vaccines to speed up their approvals once they become available, WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said on Friday.

Swaminathan, answering questions on social media platforms, also said testing vaccines for safety and efficacy - usually a years-long process - could be accelerated to just six months in the midst of the pandemic, if data satisfied regulators that they have enough information to issue approvals.

Still, she said, safety would be paramount.

"Whilst speed is important, it cannot be at the cost of compromising on the safety or the efficacy standards that one is setting for oneself," she said.

"It's not the case that the first vaccine is going to be rushed through into injecting millions of people without having established the fact whether it's really protecting you and whether it's safe enough for use in large populations."

The world rejoiced when data from Oxford University-British Swedish firm AstraZeneca's phase I/II study of their novel COVID-19 vaccine was released a fortnight ago. The group was one of the first ones to kickstart clinical trials in late April, and ever since, a lot more developments have been taking place.

While the vaccine is still undergoing phase III of its trials, preliminary results from the observatory data confirmed that the vaccine elicits a strong immune response in the host bodies and gave encouraging results. AstraZeneca also announced plans to speed up production to meet the promise of delivering a billion doses.

However, not everybody's impressed. WHO, in its latest briefing praised the move but said that it still is unrealistic to have a vaccine deployed before early months of 2021.

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