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A sample of the Covid-19 inactivated vaccine sits at a vaccine production plant of the China National Pharmaceutical Group in Beijing, on April 10.

A sample of the Covid-19 inactivated vaccine sits at a vaccine production plant of the China National Pharmaceutical Group in Beijing, on April 10.

Photographer: News and Information Center/Xinhua News Agency

Trump’s Going All In on a Vaccine. He May Still Get Beaten by China

The nation that can immunize first stands to gain not just economic advantage, but validation of its place in the world.

When the Soviet Union put the first man into space in 1961, the shock to America’s self-confidence was electric. If China should be first to produce a successful vaccine against the coronavirus, U.S. prestige is likely to suffer a similar blow.

President Donald Trump is putting everything he’s got into a research effort dubbed Operation Warp Speed, which pulls together pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and the military. So is China, which has a head start at a time the two countries are already engaged in a fight for dominance impacting everything from trade to the roll-out of 5G communications networks.