French pharma giant Sanofi has claimed to have stepped up its efforts to roll-out a COVID-19 vaccine by the middle of next year.

“Our goal is to arrive at Sanofi with a vaccine by the middle of next year. We are speeding up everything,” Olivier Bogillot, president of the multinational company headquartered in Paris, told France Info radio network on Tuesday.

Bogillot said Phase 2 trials have already begun, after which production will begin.

The trial results will not be available until April or May of 2021 but the company will start manufacturing the drug nonetheless, ensuring it is safe to be released to the public, he said.

“We have signed a charter with various laboratories not to compromise on safety standards… if the vaccine is effective and safe, yes, the next year, and in mid-year, the French will be able to be vaccinated.”

Bogillot’s announcement comes as US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson halted clinical trials of a coronavirus candidate vaccine after “unexplained illness” in one of the participants.

France’s Ministry of Health on Tuesday reported 8,505 virus cases, pushing the tally to 743,479. With 96 more fatalities, the death toll stood at 32,825. There are 5,350 hospitalizations with 929 patients in intensive care.

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