Washington-Plans for vaccination programmes began taking shape in Europe and the United States following recent breakthroughs, as surging coronavirus caseloads prompted gruelling new restrictions, with Austria taking the unpopular step Tuesday of closing schools and shops.

Global hopes of vanquishing the coronavirus pandemic were high after US biotech firm Moderna said its vaccine candidate was nearly 95 percent effective in a trial, a week after similar results announced by pharma giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci hailed the results, telling AFP that the data exceeded expectations. “The idea that we have a 94.5 percent effective vaccine is stunningly impressive,” he said.

Moderna, whose clinical trial involved more than 30,000 participants, expects to have approximately 20 million doses ready to ship in the United States by year-end -- with elderly and at-risk people to be first in line for jabs.

The US Food and Drug Agency may approve both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines early next month, according to Moncef Slaoui, head of the government’s “Operation Warp Speed” vaccine quest.

He said that from January, 25 million people would be vaccinated per month.

France too said it was “getting on the starting blocks” for a vaccination programme to launch in January pending French and EU regulatory approval, budgeting 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion) for the rollout in 2021, according to spokesman Gabriel Attal.

Fauci, who heads the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, warned it would be crucial to convince people to take the vaccine, particularly in the US, where anti-vaccine sentiment runs high.

“A vaccine with a high degree of efficacy is of no use if nobody gets vaccinated,” he said.

Yet with widespread availability of any vaccine still far off, restrictions on free movement, gatherings and business were inevitable as the second wave of the coronavirus continued to build. In the hardest-hit United States, President-elect Joe Biden expressed frustration over Donald Trump’s refusal to cooperate on the White House transition process, saying “more people may die” of Covid-19 without immediate coordination on fighting the pandemic.

Globally, infections have surpassed 55 million with more than 1.3 million deaths, and experts caution the months ahead will still be difficult and dangerous.