In not even a year after the discovery of COVID-19, several vaccines have been licensed and hundreds of millions of people will be vaccinated within months. Soon the number of severe COVID-19 cases will plummet, people at risk will no longer die, and after the vaccination of younger people, Long COVID will retreat too.

There are no analogies to describe COVID-19 vaccine development. A bizarre Christmas gift? A bit dull! A feat that greatly exceeds the achievements of the moon landings? Obvious and dreadfully banal! The only thing history will remember is that by creating COVID vaccines in record time, science has given us a humbling demonstration of what it can achieve.

Nevertheless, we are not out of the woods yet. Nature, too, has demonstrated that it can strike back. If the new English B117 variant (also called B.1.1.7, VOC-202012/01, 501Y Variant 2 or 20B/501Y.V1) or other mutants are confirmed to increase transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 on a global scale, the race may be on again. In 2021, let’s perfect our skills of physical distancing and continue to wear face masks. Let’s take it as a convenient rehearsal exercise for future pandemics. It isn’t fun but it must be done.

Bernd Sebastian Kamps & Christian Hoffmann

13 January 2021




Preface to the First Edition

Seventeen years ago, in the middle of the outbreak, we decided to write a short medical text about the ongoing SARS drama, presenting the scientific data and providing real-time updates. After publishing three editions in 6 months, a scientific magazine concluded that our SARS Reference ( was “not fancy”, but presented “plenty of information”. When we became aware of the new coronavirus epidemic in mid-January 2020, we immediately felt that time had come to repeat our millenium exercise.

While SARS-CoV-2 seems under control in China, the epidemic is moving west briskly. What only weeks ago seemed an impossible feat – imposing and enforcing strict quarantine measures and isolating millions of people – is now a reality in many countries. People all over the world will have to adapt and invent new lifestyles in what is the most disruptive event since World War II.

We believe that the current situation needs a new type of textbook. Humanity is confronting an unknown and threatening disease which is often severe and fatal. Health care systems are overwhelmed. There is no proven treat­ment and vaccines will not be available soon. Such a situation has not existed since the flu pandemic in 1918.

We believe a clear head is crucial in times of over-information, with dozens of scientific papers published every day, news about hundreds of studies being planned or already on the way and social media blending hard data with rumors and fake news. The tedious work of screening the scientific literature and the scientific data has to be done – regularly & constantly, like a Swiss watch.

Over the coming months, COVID Reference will be presenting updates on a regular basis and narrating the scientific data as coherently as possible.

Remember Science Magazine. It isn’t fancy.

Bernd Sebastian Kamps & Christian Hoffmann

29th March 2020