The state of nasal COVID-19 vaccines: 4 notes

Some experts are calling for the development of a nasal COVID-19 vaccine as federal officials continue to weigh what the nation's booster strategy could look like, The Washington Post reported April 10. 

Experts have previously said nasal spray vaccines may make better boosters than injected shots because they offer protection in the mucosal linings of the airway, where the coronavirus first lands. 

Four details: 

1. While the primary goal of COVID-19 vaccination is to prevent severe disease, nasal vaccines would aim to prevent infection altogether. 

"If we want to change the goal posts, so to speak, and get into really limiting infection and preventing infection, the final bullet point is, we need to change the route of immunization," said Robert Seder, MD, chief of cellular immunology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, proposing a scenario in which a variant emerged that was as transmissible as omicron and caused more severe illness like delta. "Wouldn't you want a vaccine [against] not just severe disease, but [to] prevent transmission?" he told the Post

2. A nasal spray that prevents infection altogether is a lofty goal, with a complicated regulatory path in the way. That means one wouldn't be ready by fall, when cases are expected to increase again as people gather indoors and colder weather moves in. Lack of funding also stands in the way of next-generation vaccine concepts. 

"We could Operation Warp Speed the next-generation mucosal vaccines, but we don't have the funding to do it," said Karin Bok, PhD, director of pandemic preparedness and emergency response at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "We're doing everything we can to get ready … just to get ready in case we have resources available," she told the news outlet. 

3. Theoretically, a nasal spray vaccine would be administered as a puff of droplets in each nostril. Vaccine developers testing such vaccines have used a modified, harmless version of a live virus that includes the spike protein found on the outside of the coronavirus.

4. In February, The New York Times reported there were at least a dozen nasal COVID-19 vaccines in development globally. 

 

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