Leave it to the U.S. Army to figure it all out.
Scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research think they have created a new vaccine that is effective against all COVID and SARS variants, according to a new report.
“Within weeks, scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research expect to announce that they have developed a vaccine that is effective against COVID-19 and all its variants, even Omicron, as well as from previous SARS-origin viruses that have killed millions of people worldwide,” Defense One first reported.
“The achievement is the result of almost two years of work on the virus. The Army lab received its first DNA sequencing of the COVID-19 virus in early 2020. Very early on, Walter Reed’s infectious diseases branch decided to focus on making a vaccine that would work against not just the existing strain but all of its potential variants as well,” says the report.
Phase 1 of trials on humans, which reportedly tested the vaccine against Omicron and other variants, concluded this month, but the vaccine still needs to go through phase 2 and phase 3 trials.
“Unlike existing vaccines, Walter Reed’s SpFN uses a soccer-ball-shaped protein with 24 faces for its vaccine, which allows scientists to attach the spikes of multiple coronavirus strains on different faces of the protein,” Defense One notes.
“It’s very exciting to get to this point for our entire team and I think for the entire Army as well,” Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, director of Walter Reed’s infectious diseases branch said in an exclusive interview with Defense One.
The vaccine will also be tested on people who have been vaccinated or contracted the virus, thus building up antibodies. “We need to evaluate it in the real-world setting and try to understand how does the vaccine perform in much larger numbers of individuals who have already been vaccinated with something else initially…or already been sick,” Modjarrad said.
The news comes as Omicron is sweeping the world. “With Omicron, there’s no way really to escape this virus. You’re not going to be able to avoid it. So I think pretty soon either the whole world will be vaccinated or have been infected,” Modjarrad said.
Meanwhile, a new report says the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is milder than the Delta variant, according to an early look at a study from the British government.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which operates much like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that those who contracted Omicron are less likely to become severely ill compared to people who get the Delta variant, according to the data, which was obtained by Politico.
“More people are likely to have a mild illness with less serious symptoms — probably in part due to Britain’s large number of vaccinated and previously infected people, and possibly because Omicron may be intrinsically milder,” Politico reported. “Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has previously cautioned against too much optimism based on the initial optimistic signs from South Africa in the past few weeks. However, the UKHSA’s view after studying cases in Britain is that Omicron is indeed usually less severe than Delta.”
But the report included one caveat. “The less good news is that while Omicron seems milder overall, the UKHSA has found it is not necessarily mild enough to avoid large numbers of hospitalizations. The experts have found evidence that for those who do become severely ill, there is still a high chance of hospitalization and death.”
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