In the United States, three COVID-19 vaccines are currently approved for use: Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson. But, to make the vaccination process simpler and faster, researchers are working to develop the next generation of vaccines, in both pill and nasal-spray forms.
These next-gen vaccines may make it easier to put an end to the coronavirus, or possibly manage it as an ongoing risk (kind of like we treat the flu).
Next-Gen COVID-19 vaccines
Today, COVID-19 vaccines are injectable. But, some vaccine manufacturers have started the development of a nasal vaccine spray. It could be available as soon as 2022, depending on its efficacy in clinical trials.
According to FasterCures, a center of the Milken Institute that tracks the development of COVID-19 vaccines, several companies are working on producing oral and/or nasal vaccines. One company, ImmunityBio, has received approval to test their intranasal spray in South Africa.
How the Original COVID-19 Vaccines Work
The current COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity by supplying them with “memory” T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes. These white blood cells remember how to protect you from the coronavirus, should it enter your body in the future.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response.
Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. It uses a modified version of a different, harmless virus to deliver instructions to our cells to start building protection. At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to defend against future infection from COVID-19.
How a Nasal Spray Could Protect You from COVID-19
The goal of these new developments is to create simple, longer-term protection, including from variants.
A nasal-spray vaccine is designed to produce an immune response at the point where the virus enters the body. AdCOVID, one nasal-spray vaccine in trial, stimulates an immune response including both antibody and T-cell responses.
Vaccines and the Future of COVID-19
Right now, it’s too early to know whether a nasal spray or oral vaccine will be as effective as the injectable vaccines.
But, in the past, oral vaccines have successfully followed the development of injectable vaccines. Nine years after the injectable polio vaccine was distributed, an oral version was developed, which essentially wiped polio from the planet.
New vaccines that are easier to administer, and target variants, could help us see the end of the coronavirus, which means more protection for you and your loved ones.