THE PESO strengthened versus the dollar on Monday as the country continued to record fewer cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and amid hopes for a vaccine availability in the United States by next month.

The local unit closed at P48.395 against the greenback on Monday, rising by 8.5 centavos from its P48.48 finish on Friday, data from the Bankers Association of the Philippines showed.

The peso opened Monday’s session at P48.42 per dollar, which was also its weakest showing for the day. Its intraday best was at P48.36 versus the greenback.

Dollars traded declined to $671.25 million on Monday from $889.6 million in the previous session.

Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said the peso rose amid the continued decline in the daily COVID-19 case tally.

“The peso was stronger after lower new COVID-19 cases below the usual 3,000 level,” Mr. Ricafort said in a text message.

The Department of Health reported 2,223 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing total confirmed cases to 370,028.

A trader said in an e-mail that the peso climbed amid the expectations of the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine next month.

US infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday it would be clear whether a COVID-19 vaccine was safe and effective by early December, but that more widespread vaccination would not be likely until later in 2021, Reuters reported.

“We will know whether a vaccine is safe and effective by the end of November, the beginning of December,” Mr. Fauci told the BBC.

“When you talk about vaccinating a substantial proportion of the population, so that you can have a significant impact on the dynamics of the outbreak, that very likely will not be until the second or third quarter of the year.”

The COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca Plc produces a robust immune response in elderly people, the group at highest risk, the Financial Times said on Monday, citing early results, Reuters reported separately.

The vaccine triggers protective antibodies and T-cells in older age groups, the FT said, citing two people familiar with the finding, encouraging researchers as they seek evidence that it will spare those in later life from serious illness or death from the virus.

The findings echo data released in July which showed the vaccine generated “robust immune responses” in a group of healthy adults aged between 18 and 55, the newspaper reported, citing people aware of the results from so-called immunogenicity blood tests.

But the FT cautioned that positive immunogenicity tests do not guarantee that the vaccine will ultimately prove safe and effective in older people.

AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine with Oxford University researchers, is seen as a frontrunner in the race to produce a vaccine to protect against COVID-19.

AstraZeneca resumed the US trial of the experimental vaccine after approval by US regulators, the company said on Friday.

It is a viral vector vaccine that uses a weakened version of a chimpanzee common cold virus that encodes instructions for making proteins from the novel coronavirus to build immunity against COVID-19.

For today, Mr. Ricafort expects the peso to move from P48.35 to P48.45 against the dollar, while the trader sees it ranging from P48.35 to P48.40. — K.K.T. Jose with Reuters