On the verge of delivering a one-shot vaccine, researcher worries about a changing virus

WGBH – January 26, 2021

In the earliest days of the COVID-19 outbreak, virologist Dr. Dan Barouch knew the virus would “continue to get worse” before it got better. But now, a year and more than two million deaths later, even he’s been shocked at the virus’ global rampage.

Never in our wildest imagination would we have anticipated that the pandemic would have unfolded the way it has,” said Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

But Americans could soon be rolling up their sleeves for a vaccine Barouch and his team helped create with Johnson & Johnson. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines currently in use in the U.S., the Johnson & Johnson candidate vaccine doesn’t require freezing. That makes it easier to transport and store. It also requires just one shot, unlike the two other vaccines. If approved, it would mean more people getting vaccinated much faster.

But potential COVID-19 vaccine success is tempered with worry. Barouch is “very concerned” about new virus strains and said a lot more research is needed to know if they pose a threat to current vaccines. And the race to control the virus and its variants, he said, has deepened the need to stick to COVID-19 guidelines.

“The threat of the emergence of future variants increases the need for everyone to comply with public health measures such as masking and social distancing, as well as accelerate the vaccine campaign and get people vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Barouch said.

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