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Inhaled Vaccines Aim to Fight Coronavirus Pandemic

Vaccines sprayed into the nose or inhaled through the mouth won’t require needles and could be easier to roll out and be more effective.

Coronavirus vaccines closest to the finish line are designed to be injected into the arm. Researchers are looking at whether they can get better protection from inoculations that fight the virus at its point of attack — the nose and mouth.

Most vaccines require two shots for effectiveness, and developers still aren’t sure if they’ll prevent infections. Scientists are hoping to generate superior immune responses with inhaled vaccines that directly target the airway cells the virus invades.

An alternative to conventional jabs sprayed and inhaled immunizations under development in the U.S, Britain, and Hong Kong could play an important role in helping society escape restrictions that have upended economies and everyday life.

Their goal is to prevent the pathogen from growing in the nose, a point from which it can spread to the rest of the body and to other people.

“Local immunity matters,” said Frances Lund, a University of Alabama at Birmingham Immunologist working with biotech Altimmune Inc. on an early-stage nasal inoculation. “The vaccines that can be delivered to generate that will have some advantages over vaccines that are delivered systemically.”

Most vaccine developers are focused on a familiar route — injections — seen as the fastest to protect the world from diseases.

“The first generation of vaccines is probably going to protect a lot of people,” said Michael Diamond, an infectious disease specialist at Washington University in St. Louis. “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.”

Vaccines that are sprayed into the nose or inhaled may hold other practical benefits. They don’t require needles, may not need to be stored and shipped at low temperatures, and can reduce the need for health workers to administer them.

“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,” according to Lund, the Alabama-based researcher. “But secondly, the level of expertise needed to administer that vaccine is significantly different.”