For example, Richard Wenzel, MD, MSc, emeritus chairman and professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, points to lingering signs of immunity in people who acquired the original severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003. Infectious antibodies faded within a few months, but “there is T cell recognition 17 years after SARS in some patients,” he says.

Currently, there are more than 100 vaccines that are in the preclinical stage of investigation, and about a half dozen have reached Phase III trials. Three of the latter are in Phase III trials in the United States, said Susan Bailey, MD, president of the American Medical Association.

“All the vaccines that I am aware of address the so-called spike protein, the S protein,” she said in a recent webinar. “I don’t think that any mutations that we are seeing would necessarily affect the response to different vaccines. In other words — the vaccine will still be effective. We don’t think that COVID is going to act like influenza does, which mutates like crazy all the time, and that’s why we have to have a new vaccine for flu every year and they typically will contain three to four different strains. COVID doesn’t seem to behave that way.”

Dushyantha Jayaweera, MD, infectious disease specialist at the University of Miami, concurred.

“COVID is not one of those smart viruses that hides its receptive binding domain from exposure,” he said during the webinar. “So, it is easier to create a vaccine for COVID-19 and also it will be extremely difficult for COVID-19 to mutate and avoid the antibodies. So, we believe that even if there are mutations, our vaccines would still work.”