Fauci Announces Development of a 'Universal' Coronavirus Vaccine

AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Immediately after CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Wolensky announced that “fully vaccinated” people can immediately stop wearing masks indoors and outdoors and no longer needed to practice social distancing*, Dr. Anthony Fauci had another big announcement – that researchers are working on the development of a universal coronavirus vaccine.

Referencing two articles published this week, one in The New York Times and one in Science magazine, Fauci said:

I’m gonna talk to you a little bit about the future of where we want to go with vaccines with regard to coronavirus, and that is the development of a universal coronavirus vaccine.

Fauci then described the research published in Nature magazine this week by researchers at Duke University (partially funded by CARES Act dollars) which indicates that there are antibodies that can neutralize “multiple human and bat coronaviruses”:

“The proof of concept is that — antibodies that can neutralize multiple coronaviruses have been isolated from people in their normal immune response who were infected with SARS-CoV-1 (the virus responsible for the 2002 outbreak). This was a strong suggestion that a pan-coronavirus [vaccine] might be possible.

What the investigators at Duke University found out was that a specific highly conserved site on the receptor-binding domain of the spike protein makes multiple human and bat coronaviruses highly vulnerable to cross-neutralizing antibodies.

With that observation, what they did is that they designed a nanoparticle vaccine which actually displayed…24 copies of this receptor-binding domain and added an adjutant to boost the immune response.

And so in monkeys the nanoparticle vaccine completely blocked SARS-Cov-2 infection and elicited higher neutralizing antibody activity than seen with current vaccines, all with natural infection. But, importantly, which is the crux of this discussion, is that the vaccine elicited cross-neutralizing antibody against bat coronaviruses, human SARS-CoV-1, SARS-CoV-2, and variants…that we are dealing with….”

A vaccine that is effective against multiple variants of not just the Wuhan flu but against other coronaviruses generically would be wonderful. What’s most interesting to me, though, as I highlighted in Dr. Fauci’s quote, that this research was done after antibodies produced naturally by people who had been infected during the original SARS outbreak (SARS-CoV-1) were found to neutralize multiple coronaviruses. That knowledge makes it seem highly likely that people who have recovered from COVID-19 possess antibodies that would neutralize multiple coronaviruses and thus don’t need to be vaccinated.