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Covering Coronavirus: The Race for a COVID-19 Vaccine

Delivering a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 by this winter would count as one the most ambitious scientific feats in history. With a handful of vaccines now in the midst of large-scale clinical trials, a growing number of experts say it’s an achievable goal. But many potential roadblocks could stymie “Operation Warp Speed,” with leading vaccine candidates relying on innovative but unproven technologies. Even if one vaccine is shown to be safe and effective, enormous manufacturing and distribution challenges remain, as well as difficult questions of who gets vaccinated first. Many public health experts fear that political pressure from the Trump administration to deliver an “October surprise” could compromise safety and public trust. As this drama unfolds, pharmaceutical and biotech companies are bringing in billions in government funding, raising questions about potential cronyism, accountability and regulatory oversight. In this webinar, we’ll take a broad look at where we stand, take a deeper look at how these vaccines actually work, and discuss key challenges and story lines to track as we enter a critical phase in the race for a vaccine against the coronavirus.

WHEN: Sept. 16, 2020, from 10-11 a.m. PT / 1-2 p.m. ET

REGISTER: [Now closed / Recording above]


Umair Irfan covers climate change, energy, and the environment for Vox. He is also a contributor to Science Friday. Before joining Vox, Umair was a reporter for ClimateWire at E&E News in Washington, DC, where he covered health and climate change, science, and energy policy.  

Dan Vergano is a science reporter at the Washington D.C. bureau of BuzzFeed News, where he reports on science and politics. He was previously a science reporter at USA TODAY and National Geographic. He is on the board of the Council for Advancement of Science Writing, and was a 2007-08 Nieman Fellow at Harvard, where he focused on global warming. His educational background is in engineering and science policy.


This webinars is free and made possible by the Commonwealth Fund and the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation.


Panelists' slides:

View Umair Irfan's slides here.

View Dan Vergano's slides here.

Suggested reading

These Covid-19 vaccine candidates could change the way we make vaccines — if they work,” by Umair Irfan, Vox 

Why it’s unlikely we’ll have a Covid-19 vaccine before Election Day,” by Umair Irfan, Vox

Covid-19 vaccine trials are showing promising results. A lot can still go wrong.” By Umair Irfan, Vox

The H1N1 Vaccine Is A Cautionary Tale For The Coronavirus,” By Dan Vergano, BuzzFeed News

It Will Be Very Difficult For Trump To Rush A Vaccine Before The Election, Even If He Tries,” by Dan Vergano, BuzzFeed News

New Early Coronavirus Vaccine Results Show Promising Signs Of Immunity,” by Dan Vergano, BuzzFeed News

COVID-19 Vaccine Prioritization: Work Group Considerations,” by Kathleen Dooling, M.D., MPH, CDC/ACIP

Developing Safe and Effective Covid Vaccines — Operation Warp Speed’s Strategy and Approach,” by Moncef Slaoui, Ph.D. and Matthew Hepburn, M.D., The New England Journal of Medicine

“‘Fast-Tracking” a Coronavirus Vaccine Sounds Great. It’s Not That Simple.’” By Caroline Chen, ProPublica

C.D.C. Tells States How to Prepare for Covid-19 Vaccine by Early November,” by Sheila Kaplan, Katherine J. Wu and Katie Thomas, The New York Times 

Scientists Worry About Political Influence Over Coronavirus Vaccine Project,” by Sharon LaFraniere, Katie Thomas, Noah Weiland, Peter Baker and Annie Karni, The New York Times

It Will Take More Than a Vaccine to Beat COVID-19,” by Dhruv Khullar, The New Yorker



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