The First Shots: The Epic rivalries and Heroic Science Behind the Race to the Coronavirus Vaccine, Brendan Borrell, Mariner 2021
A book review by Arun @ The Thinking Spot.
I knew I was reading a book on real-world science, but it had a feel of a thriller. From the start, I was gripped by the intense scenes in Wuhan, discovering behind-the-scenes action that I was oblivious to. Nothing else had so dramatically affected my life, like this invisible virus that was creating such devastation around me. I realized I was just about to discover how it all started, who was involved, in what sequence. I quickly realized that the COVID vaccine development and manufacturing was a global effort driven by a brilliant and dedicated international team of incredibly talented scientists, engineers, and organizations.
I just could not put down the book. I got up early, slept late, skipped socializing for a couple of days - just so I could finish reading it. If there was a page-turner, this is one. I sure hope this book is turned into a movie or a TV series. If that happens, I want to watch it and appreciate and get inspired by how the impossible became possible. And, I sure hope the author, Brendan Borrell, follows up with his second book and a third and more. For, if his first book is so good, I can only imagine how enjoyable his later books will be! Fortunately for me, the book focuses on the humanity that made it all happen. Thankfully, Brendan focuses on the science, the scientists, the companies involved, the discovery, development, testing, and ultimately manufacturing at scale. Brendan does bring in the politics - but only where relevant and in a way that does not distract from the primary goal.
How did we achieve one of the most effective vaccines in the most compressed time - ever? I shiver when I think about this mind-boggling achievement -- impossible without the real-time, intense, perseverant collaboration among the world's best scientists and institutions. I shudder to think of all the ways that things could have gone wrong or people just quitting because of the political interference. I shudder to think that I would not be here writing this review if not for those vaccines!
This book is an incredible piece of work. It's a superbly researched, accessible piece of work. I came away with a tremendous sense of gratitude to the heroic individuals who teamed up to achieve this life-altering breakthrough. I also became frustrated and angry at the politics that came in the way.
I came away with a realization that these are the heroes who matter, not those we watch on screen, nor the bureaucrats that we elect. We must recognize and reward our scientific heroes.
If we are to make our world a better place, each of us must contribute to the advancement of science in our own way. We need authors like Brendan Borrell, who inspire us by making science writing so enjoyable to read. If you buy the book using the links on this page, you will support us, an independent book store dedicated to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.