There is obviously an urgent need for a proven vaccine or medical treatment to be developed to protect against Covid-19. But for some of the scientists and countries in the race, there could also be the lure of prestige, pride and profit. The World Health Organisation is understandably cautious about claims by Russia that it is the first to succeed and that a mass immunisation programme will begin in October. Although tasked with coordinating the global effort, the United Nations’ body was unaware of the Russian work and the speed at which the achievement has been declared has raised questions about efficacy and safety. Effective vaccines usually take between 10 and 15 years to develop and manufacture in volume. The process of testing and trialling has to be exhaustive to ensure doses are effective and do not have dangerous side effects. In emergency situations, such as with the coronavirus, the process can be ramped up, although guidelines and safety requirements recommended by the WHO and the demands of governments should still be adhered to. There is scepticism given the secrecy of the Russian project that the claim by the country’s health minister is true and if it is, that standards have been followed. The WHO is mapping vaccine research and developments with an eye on ensuring that when a safe vaccine is available, it can be distributed to the world’s most vulnerable people. Debate over infecting volunteers with Covid-19 enters uncharted territory It lists on its website 139 vaccines in preclinical assessment and 25 in clinical evaluation, with at least six undergoing final, third-stage testing that involves thousands of volunteers. The latter step is the final before approval; should drugs be considered safe, the go-ahead can be given for mass production. But it could still be many months or even years before they are widely available due to the constraints of having to produce the billions of doses required globally. Three of the trials under way are Chinese. Beijing was quick to share the genome sequence of the disease with the WHO when it first appeared, enabling global efforts to find a vaccine to begin. Much research had already taken place into the genetically similar diseases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers). Covid-19 has created a health crisis on a scale not experienced by the world in living memory; the accompanying economic downturn has caused hardship and fiscal turmoil for governments. Not before have researchers, scientists, pharmaceutical companies and governments poured so many resources into finding a cure or vaccine for a disease. But as great as the urgency is, standards and rules have to be adhered to so that lives and livelihoods are not put at even greater risk.