The time of trials: Waiting for a coronavirus vaccine

An infected and impatient world needs protection from Covid-19, but rushing it won’t be easy. How can we speed up a complicated process?

(22 May 2020, feed from Knowable Magazine

The Covid-19 coronavirus has knocked our world off its axis. We won’t return to anything approaching normal — that is, life without social distancing, quarantines, masks, school closures and other control measures — until most of the world has been vaccinated against the virus. Everyone, therefore, has the same question on their mind: How fast will a vaccine be ready?

These are not normal times, however, and a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus, formally known as SARS-CoV-2, is the focus of unprecedented research efforts. Already, over 100 research groups have vaccine candidates under development, and a few are already being tested in people. In mid-May, the US government announced “Operation Warp Speed,” an initiative that aims to have a vaccine ready for general use by the end of 2020.

Almost all experts say that target is too optimistic, generally citing the spring of 2021 as a best-case scenario. But to hit even that later target, a lot of things have to break right, and a lot of logistic hurdles have to be cleared away. Here’s a look at some of the key issues in vaccine development.

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