A coronavirus vaccine could be ready within months, the expert leading Britain's hunt for a jab declared today.

Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, said the “first possible time” an inoculation could be developed to offer immunity was “towards the tail end of the year, if everything works”.

But, speaking to the BBC, she also admitted it was “more likely, I think, it will be next year”.

It comes as Britain announced it will buy 90million doses of potential Covid-19 vaccines from US firms Johnson & Johnson and Novavax Inc.

The decision brings the total number of deals by the UK government to six as the race for shots heats up.

The number of deals is now up to six (file photo)

It means the Government has secured 362 million doses of potential vaccinations – if they work.

But Ms Bingham denied the UK was hoarding inoculations, saying: “We are absolutely not vaccine nationalists.

“My priority is to ensure that those people most at risk of infection do get vaccinated.

“If we are in the fortunate position where more than one vaccine is safe and effective, we will then be working with our international partners to explore how we can ensure that everybody who needs to be vaccinated around the world will be vaccinated.”

Explaining why the UK was hedging its bets by buying vaccinations which may not work, she went on: “The difficulty is that there are no vaccines against any human coronavirus so we don't know which, if any, of these might work, so we are getting the most promising vaccines.”

Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, said the “first possible time” an inoculation could be developed to was “towards the tail end of the year"

The UK has now reached agreements on six vaccines of four different types - none of which are yet proven to work.

There are 90 million doses in the pipeline under deals with an alliance between the pharmaceutical giants BioNtech and Pfizer, as well as the firm Valneva.

Some 100 million doses of vaccine could come from a vaccine being developed by Oxford University in partnership with AstraZeneca, while a deal has been struck for 60 million doses of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi Pasteur's potential Covid-19 vaccine.

Ms Bingham said a vaccine could potentially be ready by Christmas.

She told Radio 4's Today programme: "I think the first possible time is towards the tail end of the year if everything works.

"And the two vaccines that are most advanced could be potentially available at the end of the year are the Oxford vaccine that's partnered with AstraZeneca and the BioNTech vaccine that's partnered with Pfizer.

"Both of those two could potentially have their efficacy readouts before the end of the year which would then be presented to the regulators to determine whether the data was sufficiently robust to allow registration.

"But more likely I think it will be next year."

Johnson & Johnson said its Janssen Pharmaceutica unit will supply the UK government with its candidate known as Ad26.COV2.S with an initial sale of 30 million doses on a not-for-profit basis for emergency pandemic use.

The advance purchase agreement will also provide an option for an additional purchase of up to a 22 million doses, it said.

In a separate statement, Novavax said the UK would buy 60 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373, for a phase 3 clinical trial.

With six deals each so far, Britain and the United States are leading the global race to strike deals with drugmakers for vaccines.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “The Government’s strategy to build a portfolio of promising vaccine candidates will ensure we have the best chance possible of finding one that works.

“Today’s agreements will not only benefit people in the UK but will ensure fair and equitable access of a vaccine around the world, potentially protecting hundreds of millions of lives.

“While we are doing everything we can to ensure the British people get access to a successful vaccine as soon as possible, nobody is safe until we are all safe so global cooperation is absolutely critical if we are to defeat this virus once and for all."

No vaccine has yet proven to work, but more than 20 candidates are in clinical trials.