Here's how the US Army is racing to help get a coronavirus vaccine

Our national investigative unit is getting a unique look at the effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine — from inside an American military base.


There's a worldwide race right now for a coronavirus vaccine to stop the pandemic and save lives.

Now Chief National Investigative Correspondent Mark Albert is getting a unique look at the effort — from inside an American military base.

Dr. John Dye, chief of viral immunology for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, showed the U.S. military's effort to prevent and treat COVID-19.

"So in this suite right here, behind this wall, they're actually taking coronavirus and they're putting it onto cells to look at the kinetics — or the characterization of that virus — and how it grows in those cells," he said.

"If we're going to make a breakthrough, this is where it's going to happen," he said.

Dye has led teams here in the U.S. and throughout the world in the fight against deadly viruses, including Ebola.

Now, at the high-security U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Maryland, Dye and 700 other scientists, researchers and staff are preparing to test in animals promising novel coronavirus vaccines developed by companies, government labs, and universities. They're also looking for treatments for those who get sick.

Col. Darrin Cox is commander of the medical research institute.

"They're coming to work seven days a week working hard to defeat coronavirus," Cox said. "The goal is to do it as safely and quickly as possible."

"And you don't feel any extra pressure knowing the whole world is fighting this pandemic right now?" Albert asked.

"Well, there's certainly a sense of urgency, right? I mean, it is affecting the whole world," Cox said.

That sense of urgency extends all the way to the Pentagon.

Gen. James McConville, Army chief of staff, is keeping close watch on the Army's coronavirus efforts and visiting Fort Detrick.

"The secretary and I talk to them every single week," McConville said. "We that's how seriously we take that."

McConville said they're tracking progress weekly and giving them "whatever they need so they can move very, very quickly — and they are."

The facility is back up and running at full strength after bio-safety concerns led the CDC last year to partially suspend its work.

"That was a wakeup call with respect to needing to change a few things," Cox said.

Now, with a global pandemic and hundreds of Americans dying each day from COVID-19, the U.S. Army's premiere infectious disease institute knows what's on the line.

"To allow people to get back to work, get back to a situation where we're all normal," Dye said. "While we still save lives as we move along."

This week, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security warned that China is "likely" cyber targeting organizations working on COVID-19 therapies and vaccines.

The Chinese embassy says that's just "lies."

But the U.S. Army's Institute of Infectious Diseases told us it "does have measures in place" to protect its work from cyber theft.