What If There’s a COVID-22? How Should We Handle It?

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Here’s a question for everyone to ponder.

As you know, the Moderna vaccine was developed in two days. The rest of the time after that was devoted to testing and production. Now, suppose it’s 2022 and we get hit with another coronavirus. Once again, the boffins develop a vaccine within two days. What’s more, they say that the new vaccine is structurally fairly similar to the COVID-19 vaccine, which means that it’s probably about as safe.

Probably. Maybe. Possibly.

So what do we do? Go through another nine months of testing? Or, given the vast death toll that’s likely without a vaccine, go immediately into production and start vaccinating people as soon as possible? If it turns out there are severe side effects, then stop and try something different.

I ask this because I don’t think it’s an unlikely scenario. We had SARS in 2003, MERS in 2012, and COVID-19 in 2019, which suggests that another coronavirus is likely to break out within the next decade. And given our experience with COVID-19, there’s going to be huge pressure to start a vaccination campaign as soon as possible. After all, what are the odds that even an untested vaccine could kill more people than an uncontrolled pandemic? And our experience with COVID-19 gives us a big leg up on how to quickly manufacture similar vaccines in large quantities.

Obviously the details matter here. How deadly is our hypothetical COVID-22? How similar is the vaccine to COVID-19? What’s the scientific consensus about its safety? Sometime in the next few years these might all turn out to be more than idle questions.

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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