Inside the Great Vaccine Race

The inside story of the high-stakes race to defeat a killer virus and save millions of lives.
Available on CBC Gem

Inside the Great Vaccine Race

Nature of Things

It was the challenge of a lifetime. While the coronavirus was spreading in Wuhan, China, scientists were already mobilizing to fight back.

Inside The Great Vaccine Race, a documentary from The Nature of Things, is the dramatic story of the high-stakes mission to defeat a killer virus and save millions of lives.

These are the scientists who sacrificed everything to produce one of the greatest medical breakthroughs in the last 100 years.

Canadian Dr. Alyson Kelvin left her family behind to begin work on a vaccine and wouldn’t see them again for months. In Germany, Drs. Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci risked their company’s future to create the world’s first mRNA vaccine. Within a year, the whole world would know their names. In China, Dr. Xuefeng Yu was backed by the military and in just 50 days, his company was winning the race. And, in the U.K., Dr. Jonathan Heeney began chasing the Holy Grail — a broad spectrum vaccine that protects against multiple coronaviruses.

Creating a vaccine is an incredibly difficult challenge that normally takes up to 15 years, but these scientists did it in less than one. As COVID ravaged the world, Inside The Great Vaccine Race tracked every second of this historic scientific quest and follows the intimate journeys of four key international teams: BioNTech; CanSino; a Canadian team replicating the live virus for further study; and researchers in Thailand searching for a new coronavirus to help create a “pan vaccine” that protects against all coronaviruses.

With unique and rare access to the world’s top researchers, Inside The Great Vaccine Race follows the unfolding pandemic and reveals how every new crisis increased the pressure on each vaccine team. From news that the virus had shut down Wuhan, to the moment of success, the film captures this once-in-a-lifetime quest to achieve the impossible.