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Army Medical Personnel Describe Efforts to Develop Coronavirus Vaccine

March 5, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

The Army held a Pentagon press briefing today to discuss their effort in developing a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Defense officials sit behind a long table and speak to reporters.
Coronavirus Briefing
Army Brig. Gen. Michael J. Talley, commander of the Army Medical Research and Development Command and Fort Detrick, Army Col. Wendy Sammons-Jackson, director of the Army Medical Research and Development Command’s Military Infectious Disease Research program, Dr. Nelson Michael, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, director of Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, discuss vaccine development against the coronavirus during a press briefing at the Pentagon, March 5, 2020.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia
VIRIN: 200305-D-AP390-1074A

Army researchers are taking a "whole of government" approach with other agencies, including the National Institutes of Health; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; industry; and academia in the U.S. and abroad to detect, prevent and treat COVID-19, said Brig. Gen. Michael J. Talley, commander of Army Medical Research and Development Command and Fort Detrick in Maryland.

The work being done by Army researchers is a collaborative effort with those partners to ensure there's no duplication, added Dr. Nelson Michael, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

This illustration reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.
Coronavirus
This illustration reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Photo By: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention illustration
VIRIN: 200303-D-ZZ999-112M

Regarding potential vaccines, robust testing will be underway soon, he said. 

The first phase of testing has already started: testing potential vaccines in mice to see what their response is and making sure it's safe, Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, director of Emerging Infectious Diseases at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research said. 

The next phase would be testing in larger animals that are more similar to humans, including monkeys, he said.

Modjarrad said he didn't want to speculate when human testing would begin.

Infographic describing the symptoms of Coronavirus disease.
Symptoms of Coronavirus Disease 2019
Infographic describing the symptoms of Coronavirus disease.
Photo By: CDC graphic
VIRIN: 200304-O-ZZ999-231
Infographic describing how to stop the spread of germs.
Stop the Spread of Germs (COVID-19)
Infographic describing how to stop the spread of germs.
Photo By: CDC graphic
VIRIN: 200304-O-ZZ999-232

There's a good possibility that the outbreak could slow down over the warmer months and then start again later in the year when it gets colder — if it follows the pattern of some past coronaviruses, he said. 

It's likely that clinical trials will take some time, he said. It could be a year to 18 months before a vaccine is proved safe.

Michael said a risk/benefit analysis would be done to ensure the benefits far outweigh risks.

Microscope view of virus.
Coronavirus
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention photo shows the coronavirus.
Photo By: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
VIRIN: 200129-O-ZZ999-002A

For now, the best thing people can do is wash their hands frequently, even if they don’t touch anything, he said, adding that hugging and kissing also should be avoided.

Also, be sure to stay home if sick, Michael added.

Currently, the risk to Americans is low, he said.  America has the best emergency medical treatment and intensive care in the world so the American public should be reassured.