Research into vaccines that would protect against all coronaviruses is making progress, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, or a type of coronavirus.
The COVID-19 vaccines have plummeted in effectiveness against virus infection over time, particularly since the rise in the Omicron virus variant. They’ve also slipped in protection against severe disease.
Looking ahead to the emergency of other variants, Fauci told a congressional panel in Washington, “the importance of developing a pan-coronavirus vaccine, namely one that would be effective against all SARS-CoV-2 variants and ultimately against all coronaviruses, becomes even more apparent.”
“We have made significant progress in that direction. We have identified antibodies that neutralize multiple different coronaviruses,” he added.
Fauci directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is part of the National Institutes of Health.
Fauci and other top NIAID officials last month said in an op-ed that the “limitations” of the COVID-19 vaccines such as the lack of protection against infection “suggest that they will ultimately need to be replaced by second-generation vaccines that induce more broadly protective and more durable immunity.”
“A universal coronavirus vaccine would ideally protect against SARS-CoV-2 and the many animal-derived coronaviruses that might cause future zoonotic outbreaks and pandemics,” they added.
NIAID last year awarded $36.3 million to three institutions to study universal coronavirus vaccines, including Duke University.
“If it’s possible to have a vaccine immediately available when a new pathogen emerges, we could limit much of what has been so deadly and disruptive about the current COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Barton Haynes, director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, said in a previous statement.
The Omicron virus variant has surged around the world in part due to its ability to evade vaccine-bestowed antibodies and studies and real-world data show primary regimens of the available vaccines are no longer effective in shielding against infection.
Boosters restore some of the lost protection but early data suggest the restored protection also slips after just weeks.
Dawn O’Connell, preparedness and response assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, told the panel Tuesday that the Biden administration absolutely sees a need for new vaccines.
The department is working with Dr. Fauci’s team to create a unified agenda and budget “to address these issues, to identify candidates that might already be in the pipeline, to help support the research into candidates that are just starting in the pipeline, so we can accelerate the availability of next-generation vaccines and therapeutics,” she said.