Is there a nasal spray COVID vaccine? Researchers are working on it

The coronavirus is a respiratory virus and it makes us sick by clinging to the cells in our upper respiratory tract, including our nose and throat. It should come as no surprise, then, that scientists are working on a nasal COVID-19 vaccine to stop the disease where it starts.

Current injectable vaccines — including Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson in the US — have been shown to be hugely effective at preventing serious illness, saving about 20 million lives worldwide during the pandemic, according to an estimate by researchers at Imperial College London. (The newly authorized) Novavax would have been left out of this equation.) But as we learned during last summer’s delta wave, available vaccines do not block all COVID-19 infections, especially as the virus mutates into more contagious forms.

However, researchers propose that nasal vaccines have a greater chance of blocking infections and making people less contagious by acting in the mucous membrane (the lining of the nose). dr. Joel Ernst, professor of medicine and chief of the division of experimental medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, explained some of the benefits for Abrar Al-Heeti of CNET.

“A nasal vaccine will also induce an immune response throughout the body, but it’s actually concentrated in the upper respiratory tract where the COVID virus, the SARS-COV2 virus, enters,” Ernst said.

Nasal vaccines (called “nasal spritzes” by Scientific American) have other benefits, including easier to administer (there’s no needle danger or needle learning curve) and offer a more palatable approach to immunity for about one in 10 Americans with a needle phobia.

There is currently no nasal COVID-19 vaccine for authorization on the US market, but research looks promising. According to Ernst, there are numerous nasal COVID-19 vaccines in development, but most are very early in the pilot phase. A study on mice from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases showed that the potency of nasal vaccination decreased about as fast as the potency of mRNA vaccination (Moderna and Pfizer). But nasal vaccines started to work faster than the injectable vaccines.

And the road to adoption of a nasal COVID-19 vaccine has already been partially paved by the nasal flu vaccine on the market, FluMist Quadrivalent.

Ernst said that many researchers view nasal vaccines as boosters and pose some manufacturing challenges. But the future of nasal COVID-19 vaccines looks pretty bright.

In addition to developmental challenges, the fact that most people now have some immunity to COVID-19, either through vaccination or infection, makes it difficult to test an entirely new vaccine in clinical trials, Ernst explained. While we may have to wait a year or two for clinical trials and authorization before nasal vaccines hit the market, “I think the outlook is pretty good that we’ll have nasal vaccines,” Ernst said.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare professional if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.

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