It’s likely that scientists will develop an effective vaccine to end this pandemic, but it may take a long time to get there. I’m glad that a number of different approaches will be clinically evaluated because creating safe and effective vaccines is actually a difficult process. It’s not rocket science — it’s often much harder. Three decades after AIDS began its march around the world, we still don’t have a vaccine to prevent it. And while there are effective treatments, they’re costly (PrEP, for example, is unaffordable in many countries), come with significant side effects, and do not (in most cases) prevent the further spread of the disease.

By helping quench the Covid-19 pandemic, pharma will have won the lottery. Its ship will have come in with a package bearing the Golden Ticket. Let’s see if the industry can take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore the reputation it has spent the past half century sullying. The pharmaceutical industry is hoping that success in developing a vaccine will blunt the public’s righteous anger about high drug prices and a wide variety of other high crimes and misdemeanors. These have led to huge, well-publicized fines totaling billions of dollars, all of which are considered part of the cost of doing business. It’s easy to absorb these costs when you’re selling patent-backed, monopoly-priced products that can’t be obtained from any other source.