From lab to jab: how the race to save humanity was won

BY Olivia Gavoyannis & Saffron Swire   /  8 January 2021

Hundreds of thousands of vials of Covid-19 vaccines are travelling up and down the country in a race to meet the government’s vaccination target – a remarkable feat, considering that this time last year work on the virus had only just begun.

It was 5 January 2020 when the World Health Organisation first published reports of a new virus developing in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province. A week later, Chinese scientists made the genetic sequence of Covid-19 public, kickstarting the global race to develop a vaccine. In normal times, it can take anything from a few years to decades to produce a vaccine. But coronavirus has sped up medical innovation, with scientists working around-the-clock to bring immunisation programmes up to speed.

The two vaccines currently dominating the UK market are Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca but there are several others on their tail. According to the WHO, there are 172 vaccines in pre-clinical development and 63 in clinical development.


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