Scientists worldwide are working against the clock to find a viable coronavirus vaccine – but are corners being cut for the sake of political gain and profit?
o begin with, it felt like a sleek performance from a well-honed relay team. On 11 January, only 10 days after reporting a new respiratory disease, the Chinese published the genome sequence of the virus that causes it. Researchers around the world set to work building vaccines against Covid-19, as the disease became known, and the first candidate entered human trials on 16 March; it was joined, as the months passed, by dozens of others.
Scientists were jubilant, and they had every right to be. They’d broken all vaccinology records to get to that point. But then tensions began to surface among the team members, and lately even the most distracted spectator will have noticed that they appear to be trying to nobble each other openly on the track. With accusations that the Russians and Chinese hacked research groups in other countries, biotech executives criticised for cashing in on their own, as yet unapproved vaccines, and Russia approving a vaccine that is still in clinical trials, the quest for a vaccine seems to have turned sour.