Will there be a needle-free COVID vaccine? | DW | 21.01.2022

When we think of COVID vaccines, most of us imagine a pointed needle – and some of us may even faint. But what if getting vaccinated was as simple as inhaling a nasal spray?

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 16 billion injections are given annually worldwide. This number is set to rise this year – an additional 5.6 billion may be needed for the global vaccination campaign against COVID.

Scientists are currently working on alternatives to meet the high demand, including a nasal vaccine.

When a vaccine is given through the nose, the host induces a mucosal immune response at the site of infection.

building on current technology

In Mexico, scientists are working on a nasal vaccine called Patria — which means “homeland” in Spanish — and expect clinical trials to begin soon.

Peter Palis, chair of the Department of Microbiology at the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in the United States, along with his research team developed the key ingredient used in the nasal vaccine.

Speaking on DW’s COVID-19 Special TV programme, Palis said one of the key benefits of the nasal vaccine is that it can be stored in a normal refrigerator at 2-4 degrees Celsius, instead of the ultra-low temperature required by Pfizer. has capacity. Modern Vaccines.

Since the vaccine is grown in chicken eggs – the same technology is used multiple flu vaccines The cost of development is also affordable – all over the world.

“It’s a lot cheaper to produce this vaccine than mRNA vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna,” Palis told DW.

Phase one and two trials are currently being facilitated in parallel due to the urgency of the pandemic. People from five countries are involved in the trials and preliminary data is expected by July.

“It works beautifully in animals, we have great, compelling studies in hamsters and rats, but obviously rats and hamsters are not humans,” Palis said.

a more efficient vaccine

Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis are also working on a nasal COVID vaccine.

A research team led by viral immunologist Michael Diamond and oncologist David Curiel found that mice had received a single dose of the vaccine via the nose. were completely safe From SARS-CoV-2. But the mice that had received the same vaccine via injection were only partially protected.

To make the vaccine, researchers inserted the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein inside an adenovirus that causes the common cold. But they changed the adenovirus so that it was unable to cause disease. This allows the body to develop an immune defense to the spike protein.

“It is also important that a single dose produced such a strong immune response,” Kurial said. in a press release, “Vaccines that require two doses for complete protection are less effective because some people, for various reasons, never get a second dose,” he said.

The scientists said that since the vaccine does not contain any live virus, it would also be a good option for people whose immune systems are affected by diseases such as cancer, HIV and diabetes.

no new ideas

The idea may sound novel, but needle-free vaccines have been around for decades.

One of the first to have a major impact was the oral polio vaccine, which is still used in low-income countries. The vaccine contains a weakened version of the poliovirus and works by infecting the gastrointestinal tract and stimulating an immune response in the host.

There are also oral vaccines for typhoid fever, cholera and rotavirus, as well as nasal vaccines for influenza. They also contain weakened forms of the pathogen that causes the disease.

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