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'Global Arms Race' for Coronavirus Vaccine Is Underway

WHO working with scientists, with promising progress—but it will be some time before one's available
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2020 7:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – There have so far been nearly 265,000 coronavirus cases worldwide, with more than 11,000 deaths, and the numbers keep rising. That's why scientists around the globe are working fervently with the World Health Organization on at least 20 different coronavirus vaccines to combat the virus, CNBC reports. The work that's being done in what the New York Times calls a vaccination "global arms race" has advanced rapidly, with some vaccines already in clinical trials after just eight weeks, thanks to a foundation of knowledge from the SARS and MERS outbreaks. The Guardian notes credit can also be given to China for sharing in early January the virus's genetic sequencing. Still, researchers warn a vaccine on the market could still be up to 18 months away due to safety approvals and clinical trials, which are necessities, per Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s emergencies program, who notes the only thing more dangerous than a bad virus is "a bad vaccine."

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The safety factor isn't the only one officials are contending with—CNBC notes the "logistical, financial, and ethical hurdles" also swirling. "There has to be fair and equitable access to that vaccine for everybody," Ryan says. "How do we ensure we get enough of that vaccine in time, how do we ensure ... we can distribute that vaccine to populations all over the world, and how do we convince people to take the vaccine?" The Times notes that even though there's been cooperation among companies that are usually competitors, there's also another issue looming: "a nationalistic approach that could give the winner the chance to favor its own population." Pharma execs say that's the wrong approach. "It would be completely wrong to fall into nationalist behavior that would actually disrupt supply chains and be detrimental to people around the world," Severin Schwan, CEO of Roche, says. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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