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Skyrocketingcases due to high contagion many experts talk about or variant-specific vaccines. But what if there was a universal, adaptable coronavirus vaccine that could fight any variant of COVID or even any future coronavirus? This is exactly what the US military is currently developing.
White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci recently touted the importance of a universal vaccine to protect against all variants of COVID. In an interview with NBC on Thursday, Fauci said a universal COVID vaccine “would mean that the initial vaccination would cover all these little variants, so you wouldn’t have to worry.”
“We want a pan-coronavirus vaccine so you have it on the shelf to respond to the next viral pandemic,” Fauci said. “At the end of the day, you want to get a vaccine that covers everything.”
In December, the US military announced that its pan-coronavirus vaccine, the Ferritin Nanoparticle COVID-19 Vaccine (aka SpFN) had completed Phase 1 of human trials with positive results. Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, director of infectious diseases at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) and co-inventor of SpFN, told Defense One: “We are testing our vaccine against all the different variants, including omicron,” straineven in people who received booster shots.
SpFN still needs to undergo Phase 2 and 3 human trials, however, to test its efficacy and safety against current treatments, Modjarrad said.
We’ll share what we know about the Army’s COVID-19 vaccine, including how it works and when it might become available.
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What is the US Army’s COVID-19 vaccine?
The three vaccines currently licensed for use in the United States take two approaches to preventing COVID-19 infection: the use of Pfizer and Moderna vaccinesto boost immunity, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a harmless rhinovirus to train the body’s immune system to respond to COVID.
The Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle COVID-19 vaccine, or SpFN, takes a third approach, using a harmless part of the COVID-19 virus to boost the body’s defenses against COVID.
SpFN also has less restrictive storage and handling requirements than Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, allowing it to be used in a wider variety of situations. According to military scientists, it can be stored at 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit for up to six months and at room temperature for up to a month. Pfizer’s vaccine requires an ultracold freezer (between minus 112 and minus 76 degrees F) for shipping and storage and is only stable for 31 days when stored in a refrigerator.
The army vaccine was tested with two injections, 28 days apart, and also with a third injection after six months.
Will the Army vaccine work against different strains of COVID-19 like omicron and other coronaviruses?
SpFN is being tested in humans against the omicron variant, according to Modjarrad, and has shown positive results.
Vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson all target the specific virus – SARS-CoV-2 – that causes COVID-19. But Army scientists designed their vaccine to be “pan-coronavirus,” meaning it could protect against future strains of COVID as well as other coronaviruses.
The Army’s SpFN vaccine is shaped like a 24-sided soccer ball. Scientists can attach the spikes of multiple strains of coronavirus to each of the different faces, allowing them to customize the vaccine for any new variants of COVID that arise.
“The accelerated emergence of human coronaviruses over the past two decades and the rise of SARS-CoV-2 variants, including more recently omicron, underscore the continued need for next-generation preventive vaccines that confer broad protection against coronavirus diseases,” Modjarrad said in a statement last month. “Our strategy has been to develop a ‘pan-coronavirus’ vaccine technology that could potentially provide safe, effective and long-lasting protection against multiple strains and species of coronavirus.”
When will the Army’s COVID vaccine be available?
No date has been set. SpFN successfully completed animal testing and completed Phase 1 of human trials in December, but has yet to complete Phase 2 and 3 of human testing, when its safety and efficacy are compared current vaccine options.
Normally, the completion of all three phases can take up to five years, but the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the process. Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, for example, have been tested, reviewed, and cleared by the Food and Drug Administration over the course of a year.
What happens next with the army’s SpFN vaccine?
Once the Phase 1 human trial data has been collected, analyzed and published, Phase 2 and 3 trials will begin. There is very little information so far on when or how these trials will take place or if the phases will overlap.
To track the progress of Army vaccine trials, visit the SpFN COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker provided by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command.
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The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.