Inhaled COVID-19 vaccine under trials in the UK, the USA, and Hong Kong!

COVID-19 vaccines are under development since the start of the pandemic. Clinical trials are still on. But there are some researchers in the UK, the USA, and Hong Kong who are developing and trying inhaled COVID-19 vaccine. Will inhaled forms of the vaccine against COVID-19 be the answer to this pandemic?

Inhaled COVID-19 vaccine-its basis!

Researchers and multinational pharmaceutical companies worldwide are putting in efforts to bring out an effective and safe vaccine for COVID-19. The clinical trials on them are still on. Most of these vaccine developers are developing an injectable form of the vaccine for faster protection.

Inhaled form of COVID-19 vaccine under trials [Source: ET Healthworld]
But there are some researchers from the UK, the USA, and Hong Kong who are looking at inhaled COVID-19 vaccine for better and local protection. They are banking on the local protective mechanisms of the lungs, nose, and throat that are mucosa-lined. This body tissue has high levels of immunoglobulins called IgA for local protection against bad viruses and other germs.

The researchers are developing inhaled vaccines that can activate this immune response and protect from the virus at their entry point. The lungs suffer the maximum damage and hence inhaled vaccines can prevent that. It could also aid cut down on viral transmission.

Importance of inhaled or nasal vaccines

Michael Diamond is an infectious disease expert at Washington University, St. Louis. He said:

“The first generation of vaccines is probably going to protect a lot of people,”

“But I think it’s the second- and third-generation vaccines — and maybe intranasal vaccines will be a key component of this — that ultimately are going to be necessary. Otherwise, we’ll continue to have community transmission.”

Inhaled COVID-19 vaccine [Source: Livemint]
His team found that an experimental vaccine via the nose created a strong systemic immune response in mice. The infection could not gain a foothold in the nose and respiratory tract. These nasal vaccines that are in the preclinical stage of development have other additional benefits too.

Also, read NEJM commentary: Is face mask a form of crude COVID-19 vaccine?

The other benefits of nasal COVID-19 vaccines

Besides, a better, stable, and safe protective response, nasal vaccines would require no injections. Hence people would prefer to take them rather than the injectable vaccines against coronavirus. The other advantage would be the no requirement of low temperatures to store and ship the nasal vaccine. Besides, the need for health workers to administer the vaccine would be decreased. An Alabama-based researcher, Lund said:

“When you’re thinking about trying to deliver that across the world if you don’t need to have an injectable vaccine, your compliance goes up because people don’t like getting shots,”

“But secondly, the level of expertise needed to administer that vaccine is significantly different.”

Inhaled COVID-19 vaccine [Source: Drug target review]
After positive results in mice, Altimmune, based in Gaithersburg, Maryland will enter the human testing phase in the fourth quarter. The other institutes that are trying to make the vaccine are the University of Oxford and Imperial College London. These latter vaccines will be delivered via a mouthpiece in an aerosol form. Robin Shattock from Imperial College said:

“We don’t know whether it will work well, but if it does, then it could be very important,”

He added:

“This is a virus that’s transmitted through your respiratory tract, so if you want a vaccine that will really prevent infection and onward transmission you want to have an antibody response in your nose, in your lungs. The most efficient way to induce that is by inoculating through that route.”

The Hong Kong nasal vaccine will begin human trial next month. The researchers are also trying for a dual flu-COVID nasal vaccine.