It might be too early to call it "a light at the end of the tunnel," but the quest for a novel coronavirus vaccine has entered a new, perhaps decisive phase.
We knew fairly quickly after the pandemic exploded that life in most places could never be as it was until an effective vaccine or therapy was produced.
And now we're beginning to get a picture - tentative, to be sure - of when and how that might happen.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he expects FDA emergency approval of some kind of vaccine by November or December of this year.
Taking it a step further, both Bill Gates and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield have indicated the logistics of vaccine distribution will mean life "will start to return to normal" by second and third quarters of 2021, or roughly 18 months after the social and economic devastation of this crisis started.
That seems like an awfully long time, and of course it is, but, as of now, the current "speed record" holder in the vaccine stakes belongs to Merck & Co. Inc.'s Mumpsvax.
And when I say "speed record," understand that it took nearly five years to develop Mumpsvax back in the 1960s.
For us to have an effective vaccine - any vaccine - by the end of 2020, or a little over a year since the disease emerged, would be a breathtaking, unparalleled scientific achievement.
There are dozens upon dozens of different vaccines and therapies being researched all over the world, all in different stages. The market, however, is paying the closest attention to just a few.
Aside from AstraZeneca Plc. in the United Kingdom, there are two frontrunner candidates in the United States, both in late, phase 3 clinical trials.
There's Moderna Inc., whose shares have soared as high as 400%, and Pfizer Inc., which has been rather more subdued this year, but whose vaccine candidate is a favorite in some circles for the first emergency approval.With that said, the stock I'm going to name might not be first, but it may very well be the best...