Possible Nasal Vaccination?
The world has been forever changed. It’s impossible to deny: public mask mandates, hand sanitizer stations at every turn, and in the first few months of 2020, the whole world seemed to have been flipped on its head. Something that came up so quickly has affected us in ways that we never thought possible. COVID-19 went from a mid-program nightly news topic to the reason for closing the country in a matter of weeks. As soon as the lockdowns and closures began, so did the questions: how long will this last, how long can this continue, and how can it end? Researchers and companies around the world began racing to develop a vaccine, with the first trials beginning to yield data in mid to late May.
Our society’s typical view of a vaccine is what we’re, for the most part, “used to”: an intramuscular (IM) injection, usually into the upper arm. For instance, aA common vaccine is the influenza vaccine, which, while the statistics fluctuate, is typically administered to just about 60% of children ages 6 months to 17 years, and just about 50% of those age 18 and older in the United States. Despite the commonness of the IM injection, there is an alternative: a nasal spray. Vaccines, such as the flu vaccine, can be given in an intranasal spray.
Arguably the greatest danger of COVID-19 is its ability to spread. As a respiratory virus spread through respiratory droplets, this illness has been able to reportedly infect over 37.6 million people worldwide. While an intramuscular vaccine can offer protection to the individual by generation of antibodies, it does not offer much protection in the way of spread. A nasal spray can change that.
In an article by NPR, vaccine developer and immunologist Frances Lund discussed this possibility. A nasal spray vaccine, administered at one of COVID-19’s main routes of transmission, could prevent the spread of the virus before the infection sets in. An IM injection will allow for a systemic immune response, one which may not be able to fight the virus in the nose or throat while it begins, enabling it to spread. A nasal spray can prevent this while still offering the systemic protection of an IM vaccine. According to Lund, "You still get systemic immunity if you deliver it via the intranasal route, so that doesn't go away, and you add a level of immunity that you don't get with an intramuscular vaccine...”
The Chinese government recently authorized clinical trials of a nasal spray vaccine. While it is estimated that the trials will take a year to complete, they are expected to begin in early November of 2020, according to the Global Times. The University of Waterloo in Ontario has also started development on a DNA-based nasal spray vaccine, furthering the hope that a nasal spray vaccine may offer even more potential than a typical IM injection. While there are many ongoing trials across the globe in the attempt to find a vaccine for COVID-19, these are just a few examples of those working towards an unexpected possible solution to this pandemic.
While there are no guarantees that these trials will heed the necessary results for these vaccines to be produced on a mass or global scale, hope is an important virtue to have in
times like these. There is much that we do not know about the virus that seemed to sneak up on us and turn our lives upside down in a week’s time, but we are learning more and more as each day goes by. No, there are no guarantees, and flip-flopping has been rampant, but there are a few constants throughout this pandemic: wash your hands, keep your distance when you can, and please, wear a mask. Even if you believe they do not work, you are at the worst, possibly protecting those of vulnerable populations in your community in exchange for a minor inconvenience on your part. That being said, we will continue on, living our lives in the safest possible ways, and wait for the day that a vaccine can be developed; even more so, the day that we can begin to leave the “new normal” in the past.