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Letter from the editor | 298

Encouraging prospects

In February of this year, when we were putting together the March issue, the first official record of SARS-CoV-2 infection in Brazil was confirmed. We had no idea what the future might bring. Our first article on the topic, “The Novel Coronavirus in Brazil,” reported on the disease’s arrival and described the other types of coronavirus already circulating in the country. At the time, 81,000 people had been infected and 2,761 killed in 27 countries worldwide. Nine months later, there have been 60 million confirmed cases and almost 1.5 million deaths.

Everyone has had to adapt to a new reality, and this journal is no different. We broadened the scope of our reporting, which usually focuses on the results of scientific research conducted in Brazil or by Brazilians, to include the topic of COVID-19. News coverage of the novel coronavirus has led to a greater consumption of subjects that have always been present in Pesquisa FAPESP: science, technology, S&T policy, and human behavior studied by the humanities. Since March, we have dedicated seven cover stories to the theme, as well as more than 50 articles and interviews, many brief notes, and 30 special radio programs exclusively addressing the pandemic.

Today, Brazil still finds itself in a difficult situation, but we are ending a tough year with encouraging prospects. In November, at least two pharmaceutical companies announced better-than-expected results regarding the efficacy of their vaccine candidates; two of which are being tested in Brazil and will be produced here, if approved. There are still several steps to be taken that will require detailed analysis of as-yet unreleased data obtained by the pharmaceutical companies, in addition to supplementary studies.

Among the questions still to be answered are the duration of the immunity provided by these promising candidates and whether they prevent infection by the virus or simply stop immunized people from developing the disease when infected. This is a subtle but fundamental difference in terms of public health. We also need to know if the vaccines are effective in people with preexisting conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus and if children can be vaccinated. These are normal issues in the development of vaccines, which usually take years to be approved or rejected.

The cover story of this issue takes stock of what we know so far about the vaccine candidates currently concluding phase three trials with excellent results (page 18). Our COVID-19 coverage includes articles on experiences of reopening schools (page 22), scientists who have become public faces in the media during the pandemic (page 30), and the essential investigation and tracing work of “epidemiological detectives” (page 26). Two new accounts are added to the more than 50 testimonies from our “Research During Quarantine” section, all of which are available on our website (pages 34 and 36).

We would like to thank our readers for their companionship during what has been a difficult year with many learning experiences. With a commitment to offering quality content based on scientific knowledge, we will continue to report on the advances in this area that dominated the news in 2020, in addition to our usual broad array of articles covering a diverse range of fields. Some examples of the latter from this issue include a profile of Maria Firmina dos Reis, the founder of black literature in Brazil (page 87), and a piece on a startup developing newborn baby identification technology (page 74).