The Media and I: Universal Vaccines

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In this conversation on "CBS Eye on the World," John Batchelor and I discuss the development of a universal vaccine to prevent COVID-19. John has received multiple COVID-19 vaccinations and was curious about the concept of a universal vaccine that would protect against all – even future – variants of the virus.

I described two approaches: (1) combining surface proteins from different coronaviruses on a scaffold, and (2)  focusing on conserved regions of the virus that tend not to mutate. One of the challenges for universal vaccines is performing clinical trials, which are slower and require substantial funding compared to the initial COVID-19 vaccine development under Operation Warp Speed.

John Batchelor mentioned that he has received five vaccinations and is considering another. That is a good idea, because the immunity elicited by the COVID vaccines wanes with time, especially as new viral variants capable of "immune escape" arise.  The current vaccines may need reformulation to address new variants. While it has not yet been formally recommended, individuals who are immunocompromised or at high risk should consider getting additional shots.

You can find the audio of my entire discussion with CBS Eye on the World with John Batchelor here, and my article, "The Holy Grail: A ‘Universal’ Flu Vaccine," on our website here.