The world’s first nasal vaccine for COVID-19 – based on technology licensed from Washington University in St. Louis – was approved Tuesday, Sept. 6, in India for emergency use. Since the vaccine is delivered via the nose, right where the virus enters the body, it has the potential to block infection and break the cycle of transmission, as well as prevent lung damage. Washington University scientists developed the nasal vaccine in collaboration with Bharat Biotech International Limited in India, a global leader in vaccine innovation and a developer of vaccines for infectious diseases.
Early studies at Washington University showed that nasal delivery of this vaccine creates a strong immune response throughout the body, especially in the nose and respiratory tract. In animal studies, the nasal vaccine prevented infection from taking hold in the body. While injectable COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to elicit protection against severe disease, this route of administration is thought to be less effective at preventing infection and possibly transmission.
“Nasal vaccines induce the type of protective immunity that we think will prevent or limit infection and also curb pandemic transmission of this virus,” said Michael S. Diamond, MD, PhD, the Herbert S. Gasser Professor of Medicine, a professor of molecular microbiology, and of pathology & immunology, and a co-inventor of the vaccine. “The primary goal of vaccines is to prevent hospitalization and death, of course, but if we can also reduce infection, that would be even better. The more people the virus infects, the more chances it has to spin off new variants, which sustain the pandemic. There are always some people who can’t get vaccinated or who are still at risk of severe illness despite vaccination, and the best way to protect them is to stop the virus from circulating.”