In late December 2019, the world was notified of an unusual cluster of severe respiratory disease occurring in Wuhan, China. Very soon thereafter, the causative agent was identified as the now-named SARS-CoV-2 virus—a betacoronavirus that had crossed the species barrier to infect humans. In the last few months, this virus has circulated worldwide and caused over 3 million identified cases and 200,000 deaths as of this writing, and those numbers are certainly an under-estimate.
Almost immediately, the call went forth that a vaccine was needed. I agree and so does every serious scientist knowledgeable about the issue. There is no question that a vaccine against this virus, and other as-yet-to-come coronaviruses, is imperative to protect human health and to quickly respond to future viral introductions, epidemics, and pandemics. But, alarmingly, scientists began to speak of the promise of a vaccine being available in “months”—promises that began to circulate in the media almost as quickly as the virus.