Vaccine development takes time. Earlier this spring, we learned that the previous record for vaccine development was four years from sample to approval, and that we might not see a COVID vaccine for years, if at all. But here we are, barely one year past the discovery of the novel coronavirus, and we already have a vaccine authorized in the U.S. for emergency use, and several more emerging from phase 3 trials or already in emergency use in other countries. “Was it rushed?” is the question I keep hearing. Personally, I wouldn’t say that. I’ve been reading the trial data, listening in on FDA and CDC meetings, and carefully following the reactions of experts. It truly does not seem that corners have been cut. Instead, the speed of this vaccine is due to a combination of luck, good planning, and unprecedented coordination between researchers, manufacturers, and regulators. Let’s break down some of the steps in the vaccines’ development so we can see where the time went. I’ll focus on the mRNA vaccines that are currently the front runners in the U.S.: the FDA recently granted an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and may grant another for the Moderna version as soon as next week. The advantages I describe here also benefited many of the other vaccine candidates, both here and abroad. The basic research on this type of virus stretches back years Before COVID, there was SARS. The initially-mysterious respiratory illness sickened people in China in late […]