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Global virus vaccine race heats up, but not without controversy

By Agence France-Presse

Global tensions simmered over the race for a coronavirus vaccine Thursday, as the United States and China traded jabs, and France slammed pharmaceuticals giant Sanofi for suggesting the US would get any eventual vaccine first.

Governments and private companies around the world -- like Sinovac Biotech in Beijing, seen here -- are working to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus (AFP/File / NICOLAS ASFOURI / MANILA BULLETIN)

Governments and private companies around the world — like Sinovac Biotech in Beijing, seen here — are working to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus (AFP/File / NICOLAS ASFOURI / MANILA BULLETIN)

Scientists are working at breakneck speed to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, which has killed more than 300,000 people worldwide and pummelled economies.

From the US to Europe to Asia, national and local governments are easing lockdown orders to get people back to work — while fretting over a possible second wave of infections.

Increased freedom of movement means an increased risk of contracting the virus, and so national labs and private firms are laboring to find the right formula for a vaccine.

The European Union’s medicines agency offered some hope when it said one could be ready in a year, based on data from clinical trials already underway.

But Marco Cavaleri, the EMA’s head of vaccines strategy, acknowledged that timeline was a “best-case scenario,” and cautioned that “there may be delays.”

The race for a vaccine has exposed a raw nerve in relations between the United States and China, where the virus was first detected late last year in the central city of Wuhan.

Two US agencies warned Wednesday that Chinese hackers were trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine research — a claim Beijing rejected as “smearing” its reputation.

US President Donald Trump, who has ratcheted up the rhetoric against China, said he doesn’t even want to engage with Chinese leader Xi Jinping — potentially imperiling a trade deal between the world’s top two economies.

“I’m very disappointed in China. I will tell you that right now,” he said in an interview with Fox Business.

“There are many things we could do. We could do things. We could cut off the whole relationship.”


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