Biden’s plan against Omicron Maw focuses on the universal vaccine

from Massimo Gaggi

Tomorrow the president will speak to America about the new coronavirus emergency, while in the US cases of infection with the new variant double every two days

NEW YORK – Tomorrow Joe Biden will speak to the nation about the new ronavirus emergency. The announcement, made on Friday by its spokesperson, Jen Psaki, has fueled the expectation of a winter plan against the pandemic, but has also given right-wing politicians and commentators an opportunity to harshly criticize a president accused of take it easy: four days are too long ahead of the Omicron variant whose cases, in the US, double every two days.

A clumsy interview by Kamala Harris to the Los Angeles Times in which the vice president argues that the administration was taken by surprise both by the intensity of the Delta variant and by the Omicron (seeming to place the blame on White House scientists), it has provided other arrows to critics seeking to bring out divisions in the government between politicians and experts. In reality, if there was any disagreement, it concerned underestimation of the past (the analyzes that six months ago prompted the president to invite the Americans, on July 4, to celebrate independence from Covid as well as that of the USA) more than things to do now: Biden continues to rely on scientists whose arsenal, however, does not offer much immediately.

In the winter plan they can be requested further precautions, new limits set, but there are no new therapies at hand: developing revolutionary vaccines in less than a year was almost a miracle and miracles do not happen over and over again. And the new version of the mRNA vaccines calibrated on the Delta and Omicron variants? And the discussions about the need for a Warp Speed ​​2 program to identify new treatments like the one funded with 10 billion dollars by Donald Trump when the world plunged into the pandemic? Various groups of researchers in the United States and other parts of the world are working on the development of a pan-coronavirus vaccine, i.e. a multipurpose vaccine capable of targeting the virus regardless of the variant with which it occurs.

First laboratory tests done in Singapore starting from subjects who were exposed to the first SARS epidemic in 2003, they seem to demonstrate the viability of this path. Duke University is working on a project in this field together with scientists from the University of Singapore, but other attempts are also underway around the world: from those of an Oslo foundation that is funding MixVax Ltd, a promising Israeli start-up, at the Walter Reed Army Institute, the medical center for US Army veterans. This institute, with the help of public subsidies, has started the first phase of testing a multiple vaccine. According to infectious disease specialist Bruce Gellin, now head of the Rockefeller Foundation health area, all of this is not enough.

We need to be more determined and reverse the current approach: seeking the Holy Grail of the universal vaccine means moving ahead of viruses. Otherwise, with the logic of booster we will always have to chase. And Eric Topol, another famous scientist, in asking for another Warp Speed ​​operation argues that so far the government has shown little determination in this field: but that of the universal vaccine is a complex challenge that, apart from the stratospheric costs, will require a few years to to be won.

In the meantime, the new serums should arrive Pfizer and Moderna adapted to the Delta and Omicron variants. But little is said about it and even here the waiting times seem to be quite long, up early next summer. In all of this, how does the virologist of the White House Anthony Fauci? He is the main target of attacks by those who argue that the government is too slow. In reality, even in a recent hearing before Congress, the infectious disease specialist showed that he was betting on the most ambitious bet: that of universal vaccine. On the other hand, he would not have pressed the accelerator on the new versions of the mRNA vaccines calibrated on the Delta and Omicron variants because their development still requires a lot of work and then other months, and other huge capitals, will be needed for the tests that will be carried out on thousands of individuals. . Fauci’s fear that the launch of a Warp Speed ​​2, in addition to entailing colossal costs, could create disaffection among citizens for current vaccines that do not totally protect against infections, but limit the severity of the disease. Fauci has carefully studied the results obtained in Israel, the first country to have immunized almost the entire population with the Pfizer booster. The first data collected on Omicron’s protection against serious diseases are very positive and this explains the White House’s expectation despite the increase in infections. But a game that is played on a tightrope. In a country with nerves on the edge of the skin.

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