Vaccine researchers Peter Hotez and Maria Elena Bottazzi were waiting for their phone to ring in Houston on Thursday so they could plead with federal scientific agencies to fund their vaccine, which they think could protect against the Wuhan coronavirus.

The two scientists from the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development had developed the vaccine against another coronavirus, SARS — but that epidemic ended before their vaccine was ready. And once the crisis was over, most of their funding dried up…

That was a big missed opportunity. They and other scientists say SARS should have been seen as a coronavirus warning shot, not an isolated outbreak, and it should have triggered federal investments like the billions sunk into flu vaccines a decade or so earlier. They want the federal government to act rapidly now to declare a public health emergency, get a vaccine developed, have it approved by the FDA and ready to slow the Wuhan virus’ march across China and globe.