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Lesson Plan May 14, 2021

'Race for the Vaccine' Curricular Resource


Race for the Vaccine, a documentary produced to air on CNN and BBC, follows the stories of five teams of scientists as they embark on a search for a vaccine to combat COVID-19. The film is directed by filmmaker and former virologist Catherine Gale, co-directed by medical journalist and filmmaker Caleb Hellerman, and narrated and produced by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

The film opens by introducing George Gao, Ph.D., director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Gao describes his experience researching the virus after it first appeared in China, and the steps that he and his team took to identify how the virus was different from the 2003 SARS virus. He also describes the moment he first shared the genetic code for COVID-19 with the world on January 8, 2020.

The film then explores how the following scientists and their teams spent the year that followed searching for a vaccine:

  • Kizzmekia Corbett, Ph.D., and Barney S. Graham, M.D., Ph.D., of the U.S. National Institutes of Health/Moderna vaccine
  • Keith Chappell, Ph.D., of the University of Queensland-Australia/CSL vaccine
  • Kathrin Jansen, Ph.D., of Pfizer/BioNTech
  • Teresa Lambe, Ph.D., of Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine
  • George Gao, Ph.D., of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and more. 

The film then examines the challenges and discoveries each organization made as scientists embarked on the following phases of vaccine development:

  • Initial lab testing
  • Phase I of human trials
  • Phases II and III of human trials
  • Manufacturing
  • Deciding whether the vaccine is safe for the public

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