Why getting a COVID vaccine in the nose might work better

(NEXSTAR) — Scientists hope that a new vaccine being developed will give us a better fight against COVID-19 — one that doesn’t require a vaccine of any kind at all.

Clinical trials are underway for an intranasal vaccine, given by spraying it into the nose rather than injecting it into the arm. While current vaccines and boosters are very effective at preventing severe illness and death, the hope is that the nasal vaccine will be even better at preventing mild illness.

“These induce immunity in the nasopharyngeal mucosa, where the virus initially replicates, and may prevent infection and reduce transmission,” said Dr. William Moss, professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Nasal vaccines, because of where they are administered, immediately boost the mucus and antibodies in the nose. “Mucosal immunity,” Moss explained, stops infection before the virus spreads throughout the body.

“Scientists have learned that the virus first infects the nose and throat and then sometimes travels to the lungs, where severe COVID-19 can develop. But the nose and throat are difficult for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies to reach destination, these antibodies are produced in the blood after the vaccine is injected into the arms or legs — making these hard-to-reach areas targets for better vaccines,” said Dr. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Moss said he is “particularly excited” about the potential of a nasal vaccine for COVID-19.

FluMist, a nasal spray to prevent flu, has been approved and Recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Suitable for ages 2 to 49.

A Phase 1 clinical trial from Blue Lake Biotechnology found its nasal COVID vaccine reduced the risk of symptomatic infection by 86% over three months, NBC News Report.

For comparison, In a larger study published last year, three doses of the mRNA vaccine were 61% effective in preventing symptomatic infection with the omicron variant. The three doses were found to be 95 percent effective in preventing serious outcomes, the study found.

NIAID also pointed to two recent studies showing that introducing a single nasal dose of the vaccine into the airways elicited a strong immune response in hamsters and monkeys.

but one Separate trial of AstraZeneca vaccine Only a small number of participants were found to have an immune response when they received the nasal dose. They also found that the immune response was weaker than that of the intramuscular injection.

While nasal vaccine doses have been approved for use in some other parts of the world, such as China and India, the United States may still be some way off. According to NBC News, only two types of vaccines have been tested in humans in the United States, and they are still in the early stages.

Even if approved, it’s unclear whether enough people will receive the new vaccine to curb the spread of COVID-19. The bivalent booster for the omicron variant released last year only dosed about 16 percent of the population, according to CDC tracking.

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