Health + Wellness

Is the Next Great COVID Vaccine an Inhaled One?


COVID vaccine

“The jab” might soon be replaced with something like “the huff” as slang for a COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Some experts believe that an inhaled vaccine could be a checkmate move in the world’s ongoing chess match against COVID-19.

They argue that inhaled vaccines could not only deliver more effective protection, but could do it at a lower dosage and thus make vaccines available for more people around the globe.

“Targeting vaccines to specific anatomic areas of the body where immunity is most important, could provide more durable and extensive protection than injectable vaccines when it comes to respiratory viruses,” says Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, in Baltimore.

A newly developed inhaled COVID-19 vaccine just emerged out of Canada, where researchers at McMaster University completed a lab study showing that their new vaccine was safe in mice and produced a robust immune response.

The investigators have now moved their new vaccine to a phase 1 clinical trial, to see if it will boost immunity in healthy adults who’ve already had two shots of a COVID mRNA vaccine.

The Canadian researchers deliver their vaccine through a nebulizer, a device that turns liquid into an aerosol that’s inhaled through the mouth and deep into the lungs.

“We know that when we stimulate immunity in the lung, the qualities of that immunity are intrinsically different than the types of responses that we stimulate when we inject someone with a vaccine the typical way, in their muscle,” study co-lead author Matthew Miller notes. He is an associate professor at McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, in Ontario.

RELATED: FDA Approves New Antibody Drug to Fight Omicron Variant

Inhaled vaccine more potent

Shots delivered in the arm have proven effective, but they produce an immune response that has to circulate throughout the body before antibodies wind up in the nose and the lungs — the place where you’d want the most powerful protection against a respiratory virus like COVID-19, Miller adds.

The response prompted by an inhaled vaccine “is much more potent because it recruits cells that essentially live in the lung waiting for exposure to pathogen, in this case to SARS-CoV-2. Those cells are not present when we give vaccines intramuscularly,” Miller says.

Inhaled vaccines also have a better chance to

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