The big scientific breakthroughs of 2020

Vaccines at warp speed

Only one breakthrough truly mattered this year: the creation of a COVID-19 shot. The previous record for the fastest vaccine development, for mumps, was four years. But on Dec. 8 — 11 months after research began — a 90-year-old British grandmother became the first person in the world to receive Pfizer’s new COVID vaccine outside of a clinical study. Like Moderna’s new shot, which was approved in the U.S. last week, the two-dose vaccine is about 95 percent effective and uses an entirely new type of technology. In traditional vaccines, a patient is injected with dead viral material, which triggers the body to produce antibodies.


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