The first nation to develop a vaccine for Covid-19 could have an economic advantage as well as a tremendous public-health achievement. Doses will be limited initially as suppliers ramp up, and a country will focus on inoculating most of its own population first. Even with extraordinary international collaboration among multiple companies, it could be years before a vaccine is produced at a scale sufficient to help the entire world. The first country to the finish line will be first to restore its economy and global influence. America risks being second.

China is making rapid progress, with three vaccines entering advanced development. Chinese officials say they could have a vaccine available for widespread use next year. The Europeans are also making progress. While friendly nations will try to share a successful product—to a point—the U.S. can’t rely on vaccines from China or even Europe being available in America quickly. So it’s important to take steps to speed up progress in the U.S., and to prepare to manufacture such a vaccine on a global scale. A more prepared U.S. could inoculate Americans quickly and share the product with others, particularly low-income nations that can’t develop their own vaccines and need protection.

More than 70 companies and research teams are working on a vaccine, but fewer than 20 have the experience and manufacturing scale to pull a product through development.