When scientists began seeking a vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in early 2020, they were careful not to promise quick success. The fastest any vaccine had previously been developed, from viral sampling to approval, was four years, for mumps in the 1960s. To hope for one even by the summer of 2021 seemed highly optimistic. But by the start of December, the developers of several vaccines had announced excellent results in large trials, with more showing promise. And on 2 December, a vaccine made by drug giant Pfizer with German biotech firm BioNTech, became the first fully-tested immunization to be approved for emergency use.


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