Imagine you’re a scientist who works for a large pharmaceutical company. You work on developing and producing medicines. A worldwide pandemic breaks out and you take it seriously because you know a bit about this kind of thing. Then, there is talk of a vaccine.

“No,” you think, “it’ll be a long time before that’s ready.” From your work, you know that it usually takes about a decade to develop, test, and mass produce a new vaccine. But, you watch amazed as a brand new technology, utilising messenger RNA, is developed in just months that seeks to recode cells in your body to produce spike protein, a signature characteristic of the virus. (Later, you find out it actually took only two days to develop.) Nothing like this has ever been done before and the scientist in you is impressed and even a little jealous not to be involved. But, as for taking the vaccine yourself? No. “Far too soon for that”, you think. “It’ll be years before I knew it was safe enough.”

This isn’t an imagined scenario. It describes several actual conversations with several different scientists late last year, to which I was privy. All of these science professionals, removed from the kind of societal, academic, and government pressure that soon followed, couldn’t conceive of taking a new, unapproved, vaccine utilising novel cell technology. Everything they knew told them to wait.

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