The next generation of Covid-19 vaccines in development could come as a pill or a nasal spray and be easier to store and transport than the current handful of shots that form the backbone of the world-wide vaccination effort.
These newer vaccines, from U.S. government labs and companies including Sanofi SA, Altimmune Inc. and Gritstone Oncology Inc., also have the potential to provide longer-lasting immune responses and be more potent against newer and multiple viral variants, possibly helping to head off future pandemics, the companies say.
New vaccines could “constitute some improvement” over those limitations and more easily accommodate vaccination efforts in rural areas, said Gregory Poland, professor and vaccine researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “You will see second-generation, third-generation vaccines,” he said.
There are 277 Covid-19 vaccines in development globally, of which 93 have entered human testing, celebgossip.co.za has reported. Most of the vaccines in clinical testing are injected, but there are two oral formulations and seven nasal-spray formulations.
Clinical trials for an oral antiviral pill are already underway, said Pfizer’s chief of development and medical division Mikael Dolsten.
The intravenous antiviral candidate is a potential novel treatment option that could be prescribed at the first sign of infection, without requiring that patients are hospitalised or in critical care.
“Tackling the Covid-19 pandemic requires both prevention via vaccine and targeted treatment for those who contract the virus. Given the way that Sars-CoV-2 is mutating and the continued global impact of Covid-19, it appears likely that it will be critical to have access to therapeutic options both now and beyond the pandemic,” said Dolsten in a statement.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla spoke to CNBC on Tuesday and said the oral vaccines provide several advantages and could be a “game changer”.
According to a company tracking the development of Covid-19 vaccines, FasterCures, five companies are developing an oral vaccine and 13 companies are developing a nasal spray vaccine.
Researchers from Altimmune are exploring the option of treating Covid-19 with a nasal spray, called NasoShield.
Results from the company’s Phase 1b trial evaluated the safety and immunogenicity of one and two-dose regimens of NasoShield in healthy volunteers.
“The trial enrolled 42 healthy subjects who received intra-nasally administered NasoShield or saline placebo and were then monitored for 6 months post-dosing. The primary endpoint was the safety and tolerability of NasoShield,” read an Altimmune press release.
A survey conducted in the United States (US) found that 23% of respondents do not plan to get vaccinated, however, nearly a third of them said they would if the vaccine were available as a pill instead of by a needle injection.
Quadrant Strategies conducted the online national survey of 1,500 Americans 18 and older in March.
Chief science officer, Sean Tucker, at biotechnology company, Vaxart, said it is not surprising that seven in 10 Americans prefer a pill to getting stuck with a needle and they would prefer taking a pill at home rather than going somewhere to get vaccinated.
“Needle injections present a barrier to getting people vaccinated and we have a solution that we believe will be effective and would allow people to avoid injections they don’t want to have,” said Tucker in a press release.