Col. Clinton K. Murray, Commander of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research—a command tasked with taking on the pandemic—and a doctor who still sees patients at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, received his final COVID-19 vaccination shot today.
“There’s a lot of concern about these vaccines so it was important to me as a Commander, leader and doctor to get the shot early—both to build confidence in its safety and to protect my patients,” said Murray, an infectious disease specialist who previously served as the U.S. Forces Korea surgeon where he led the response to COVID-19 pandemic.
WRAIR, the DOD’s largest biomedical research laboratory, has developed its own COVID-19 vaccine candidate, scheduled to begin Phase 1 clinical trials at winter’s end.
As vaccine manufacturing and distribution efforts continue, millions around the world continue to receive their vaccinations, with those at highest risk of death or serious illness and essential workers prioritized.
“As the vaccine becomes available, I’d recommend that everybody who is able get it,” continued Murray. “However, it’s important to remember that even with the vaccine, some caution is still needed—vaccines can take a few weeks after the second injection to fully train your immune system.”
Both shots of the two-shot protocol are critical to developing a robust, protective immune response, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Although the vaccines currently in distribution, under the FDA’s emergency use authorization, were shown to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 disease in clinical trials, it is currently unknown if these vaccines prevent people from carrying and spreading the virus to others, underscoring the importance of continuing public health practices like physical distancing, mask-wearing and handwashing.
WRAIR's vaccine researchers seek to pave the way for a universal vaccine that protects against not only the current virus, but also other known and unknown coronavirus variants, strains and species that could arise in the future.
“The emergence of coronaviruses in human populations is accelerating and we need to be prepared for the eventuality that the current coronavirus continues to mutate or other coronaviruses arise,” said Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, lead of the Army’s COVID-19 vaccine program and director of the WRAIR Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch. “That’s why we need a vaccine like the one we’re developing; one that can be protect broadly against all coronaviruses.”