Pfizer "getting there ahead of the others", as Professor Luke O'Neill says news before Christmas could give the public "a big lift".

One of Ireland's leading immunologists and Trinity professor, Luke O'Neil has said that key data on a vaccine for COVID-19 is set to emerge in the coming weeks. As Ireland enters "Level 5" lockdown, some of the most severe restrictions in Europe, O'Neill commented that a "big announcement" would be a "big lift" but "usual caveats" would still apply with it comes to a coronavirus vaccine. 

Speaking on Newstalk's Pat Kenny Show, O'Neill said there are 11 potential vaccines now in phase three of their trials. However, he said Pfizer is "getting there ahead of others".

At least three will read out in the next four-six weeks... in other words, the results of these trials will be published, and we can see which one is working. Pfizer are getting there ahead of the others," O'Neill told Newstalk.

"The usual caveats - any might fall over at any time. Certainly, it's full steam ahead and we've got to hope for the best.

"It'll be the couple of weeks before Christmas, I betcha, there will be a big announcement of some kind - that will give us a big lift, if all goes according to plan of course."

O'Neill went on to describe Kathrin Jansen, the leading scientist of the Pfizer trial, as a "rockstar" in the vaccine world. 

"She developed the HPV vaccine... she's famous for making that vaccine and making it work. She knows everything there is to know about vaccines. She's in charge of the Pfizer program - that gives you a bit of confidence as well.

"They all have great people, by the way."

Pfizer will be the first drugmaker in the U.S. to test its coronavirus vaccine on minors, some as young as 12. The vaccine research center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital will start giving teenagers ages 16 and 17 the vaccine this week

— NowThis (@nowthisnews) October 18, 2020

Last Friday (Oct 16), Pfizer said that based on interim data they hope to find out if the vaccine is effective by the end of the month. By mid-November, they hope to have enough data to present to the FDA an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) application. 

Analyst Vamil Divan, of Mizuho Bank, told Yahoo News, the pace of Pfizer’s vaccine development “remarkable.”

“We commend the management team for their transparency during this accelerated development program,” Divan said.

“Overall, things appear very much on track and the speed in potentially getting this vaccine to market is much faster than we would have expected when the pandemic started...

"The speed with which Pfizer has moved to develop this vaccine candidate is encouraging to us, and suggests Pfizer may be able to meet its stated objectives of being a faster-moving, more nimble biopharmaceutical company."