Back in WWII, air defense was difficult. You were shooting at high altitude, fast-moving targets. Missing was the most natural thing in the world. One out of thousands of anti-aircraft shells hit. So, there was a need for better methods.
The solution was the proximity shell – a shell with a tiny radar inside that would make the shell explode when it got _close_ to a target. This was technically challenging: it’s not easy to cram a radar into an artillery shell, not easy to build one that still works after experiencing accelerations of thousands of gravities. Moreover, people needed an answer _soon_.
The British had made some progress, but lacked sufficient resources. The US picked up the project, starting a lab that eventually became APL (Applied Physics Lab, associated with Johns Hopkins, which still exists today) . Its leader was Merle Tuve, who understood what the wartime priorities were:
” I don’t want any damn fool in this laboratory to save money. I only want him to save time.”
The New York Times, written & edited by orcs, for orcs, is criticizing Emergent Biosolutions for screwing up covid vaccine production – and those criticisms may well be valid. But they are also criticizing the original decision to throw money at Emergent Biosolutions for vaccine production – and I doubt if that is valid. The right thing to do, which by some odd chance we actually did, was ( besides getting rid of procedural obstacles) to try several vaccine approaches, several manufacturers, and use whatever was shown to work and could be produced rapidly. We didn’t know which companies would succeed ( Merck didn’t), so a shotgun approach was the logical way forwards.
The cost of the whole vaccine effort was nothing compared to the other costs of covid, while an effective vaccine was by far the most likely way of getting us out of this crappy situation.