Army vaccine researchers are preparing for the possibility of new COVID-19 strains

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Army medical experts involved in testing COVID-19 vaccine candidates developed by outside laboratories are also working to develop their own vaccine, one that can give them the building blocks to combat future strains of the virus if mutations arise. The first few vaccines being “queued up” for what the White House recently dubbed “Operation Warp Speed” includes those by the companies Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, Army researchers involved in the project said during a telephone call with reporters Tuesday. Moderna’s candidate, for instance, is “very, very likely to be the first major vaccine to be tested in large scale,” said Nelson Michael, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. But Army researchers are developing another vaccine, added Kayvon Modjarrad, the institute’s director of emerging infectious diseases. Their vaccine is being designed with a “long-term approach” to combating new strains of the novel coronavirus. “There’s no evidence currently that there are new strains,” Modjarrad cautioned. But the vaccine his team is developing would help researchers more quickly fight any mutated strains should they arise. “We have been vaccinating hundreds and hundreds of mice with different versions of our vaccine …

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