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ON 10 January 2020, the first genetic sequence of the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, was published by an international consortium of scientists, and the race for a vaccine began. It wasn’t a moment too soon, as the first death from infection with the virus was reported in Wuhan, China, the next day.

Remarkably, it has taken less than a year from this initial discovery to the development of several vaccines that have, in trials, far exceeded all expectations. At the time of going to press, a vaccine developed by US company Pfizer and its partner BioNTech had …