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HomeWa'appenNasal vaccines for COVID-19 offer hope and face hurdles

Nasal vaccines for COVID-19 offer hope and face hurdles

A squirt up the nose could reduce coronavirus transmission, but the vaccines have challenges to overcome

Researchers are developing coronavirus vaccines that will be sprayed up the nose. The hope is the vaccines will build immunity in one spot the coronavirus often invades — our nostrils.

Researchers are working on vaccines that would hopefully do just that. You squirt these vaccines into your nostrils, rather than inject them into your arm muscle like the current COVID-19 shots. Sprayed up the nose, the vaccines teach our immune systems to fortify our nostrils against coronavirus, perhaps meaning we get less sick or making us less likely to transmit the virus to other people.

Jabs in the arm may not be as good at preventing transmission as nasal spray vaccines, some scientists suspect. The shots are better at building defenses that circulate in the blood or fluid that surrounds cells, which makes them great at protecting the lungs. But even with death rates down, that doesn’t mean our fight with coronavirus is over. Waning immune defenses combined with slippery versions of the coronavirus that can evade parts of our immune systems leave vaccinated people susceptible to infection. So we still need additional protection.

A panel of experts advising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will meet later this month to weigh in on whether we might need a vaccine update for the fall. Updated shots may indeed be on the horizon: Preliminary data from vaccine developer Moderna show that its latest vaccine, which includes both omicron and the original virus, boosts the immune response against omicron as well as other variants such as delta, the company announced on June 8.

The prospect of having nasal vaccines that may be able to curb transmission better than existing shots is understandably exciting. But these types of vaccines still have a way to go before hitting local pharmacies or doctors’ offices.

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