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The First Shots: The Epic Rivalries and Heroic Science Behind the Race to the Coronavirus Vaccine

The First Shots: The Epic Rivalries and Heroic Science Behind the Race to the Coronavirus Vaccine

by Brendan Borrell


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The full inside story of the high-stakes, global race for the lifesaving vaccine to end the pandemic

Heroic science. Chaotic politics. Billionaire entrepreneurs. Award-winning journalist Brendan Borrell brings the defining story of our times alive through compulsively readable, first-time reporting on the players leading the fight against a vicious virus. The First Shots, soon to be the subject of an HBO limited series with superstar director and producer Adam McKay (Succession, Vice, The Big Short), draws on exclusive, high-level access to weave together the intense vaccine-race conflicts among hard-driving, heroic scientists and the epic rivalries among Washington power players that shaped 18 months of fear, resolve, and triumph.

From infectious disease expert Michael Callahan, an American doctor secretly on the ground in Wuhan in January 2020 to gauge the terrifying ravages of Disease X; to Robert (Dr. Bob) Kadlec, one of Operation Warp Speed’s architects, whose audacious plans for the American people run straight into the buzz saw of the Trump White House factions; to Stéphane Bancel of upstart Moderna Therapeutics going toe-to-toe with pharma behemoth Pfizer, The First Shots lays bare, in a way we have not seen, the full stunning story behind the medical science “moon shot” of our lifetimes.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780358569848
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/26/2021
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 240,003
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Brendan Borrell is an Outside magazine correspondent and has written on science, health, and business for The Atlantic, Bloomberg Businessweek, National Geographic, Wired, and the New York Times.  Borrell lives in Los Angeles, and The First Shots is his first book. 

Table of Contents

Cast of Characters ix

Prologue xiii

Part 1 Emergence January 2020-March 2020

1 Sounds Like It Could Be Fun 3

2 Courage and Doubt 13

3 Not Sanctioned, Not Authorized 24

4 Our Bugs and Gas Guy 31

5 Stabilizing the Spike 42

6 Old School, New School 52

7 Oceanic Outbreak 64

8 Very Much Under Control 73

9 The President's Powwow 80

10 This Ain't Over 86

Part 2 Lockdown March 2020-May 2020

11 A Company Is Born 99

12 Running on Empty 110

13 Masks for Everyone 116

14 The Moonshot 123

15 Return to Power 140

Part 3 Testing May 2020-October 2020

16 Horse Race 151

17 Battle Rhythm 163

18 Masters of the Protocol 173

19 Three Hundred Million Doses 183

20 Plasma Drive 194

21 Trials 204

22 Tribulations 212

Part 4 Rollout October 2020-January 2021

23 How Do You Know? 223

24 Winter Wave 232

25 Seniors First 242

26 The N-Hour 248

27 The Brave Endure 257

Afterword 269

Acknowledgments 272

Notes 275

Index 287

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