AP was there in all formats when the first shots were given in a first test of an experimental coronavirus vaccine on humans.

The world had been waiting for this moment: the start of a clinical study searching for a vaccine for the new coronavirus that sparked a pandemic. 

Lots of reporting has been done on the worldwide hunt for potential COVID-19 vaccines with the U.S. National Institutes of Health as the front-runner, but no one knew when exactly the first shots would be given. When White House reporter Zeke Miller got word that the first volunteers in the clinical trial would be injected in Seattle the following day, he had the news on the wire within minutes. Meanwhile, D.C.-based medical writer Lauran Neergaard had leveraged years of source work to separately arranged exclusive access to the trial, enabling AP to have an all-formats team present at the start of the experiment.

The AP Health and Science Team worked across formats and regions to coordinate and plan coverage. Despite a curveball from the White House on the eve of the experiment, the team worked overtime to preserve access to the study and the volunteers. The result: AP was the only news organization to witness the first participants receiving an experimental COVID-19 vaccine. 

To get the news out fast, a Slack group was created with Seattle-based medical writer Carla K. Johnson sending real-time updates. Photojournalist Ted S. Warren and freelance video journalist Michael Ciaglo took exclusive visuals that were used by customers worldwide. \

On the production side, health and science video journalist Federica Narancio produced several video cuts, and video journalist/motion graphic designer Marshall Ritzel produced an animated explainer for AP’s Horizons lifestyle and technology service. The newsroom at AP headquarters erupted in cheers when the exclusive crossed the wire. AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt later appeared in the newsroom to congratulate the team. 

The package was a customer and consumer success. The story with accompanying photos received nearly 500,000 views on AP News and the app. More than 500 news outlets posted the story online, and the story received 115 downloads on AP Newsroom. It also got incredible social engagement, with 1.5 million Facebook interactions and more than 800,000 likes. The video went everywhere, used by ABC News, Voice of America, the New York Post, Time and others. 

For ensuring AP was the only news organization in the room at a critical juncture of the coronavirus pandemic response, and for delivering distinctive journalism to customers worldwide, Neergaard, Warren, Johnson, Ciaglo, Narancio and Ritzel win AP’s Best of the Week award.