This work is urgent because scientists are finding that protection from Covid-19 vaccines fades over time. And the virus itself is changing, mutating in ways that make it harder for the immune system to counter. The omicron variant has already caused breakthrough infections in large numbers of vaccinated people, and it’s a matter of time before the virus mutates again.
“We must now prioritize development of broadly protective vaccines like the universal influenza vaccines we have been working toward in recent years,” wrote National Institutes of Health researchers David Morens, Jeffery Taubenberger, and Anthony Fauci in the New England Journal of Medicine last month.
This crucial work is a long shot. It hinges on breakthroughs in technology and our current understanding of the immune system, because there’s a lot researchers still don’t know about how our cells defend us from infection. And the universal vaccine approaches that scientists are experimenting with — from universities and even the US Army — have never been used on large scales before.
Even the faint hope of preventing another global cataclysm — and contributing to the end of the one we’re living through now — deserves money and scientific attention, researchers told Vox. It could take years of sustained effort, but some researchers are confident that universal vaccines will emerge.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction