Scientists are working on a COVID vaccine you can drink
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What if you could drink your COVID-19 vaccine instead of rolling up your sleeve? No needle – just a “swish and swallow”, and your new found immunity is down the hatch.
You may be able to in the next two years as researchers expand their focus on mucosal vaccines, which include nasal vaccines as well as swish and swallow oral vaccines such as QYNDR, which has completed its clinical trial. phase 1 and is currently waiting on more funding to conduct the more detailed and advanced trials that could actually bring the vaccine to market.
The QYNDR vaccine is pronounced “milder” because it’s a gentler way to deliver a vaccine, says Kyle Flanigan, founder of QYNDR maker US Specialty Formulations. The promising results from the New Zealand clinical trials offer hope that QYNDR will be a viable option for protection against the suite of circulating COVID-19 variants. The results have not yet been peer reviewed.
“It’s really hard to get a vaccine to survive through your digestive system,” Flanigan said. “We were able to figure out how to get a vaccine through the stomach and into the intestine and make it effective and induce the appropriate response.”
But in order to get it through to the additional clinical trials needed to examine it and bring it to market, they need funding from investors. This week, Flanigan was in San Francisco at the JP Morgan Healthcare conference to try to secure that funding.
When we talk about COVID-19 vaccines, we tend to talk about the same big names: Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca. But around the world, researchers are forging their way with new names and new forms of vaccines, like the nasal vaccines that have recently been rolled out in China and India. As Nature reports, researchers are still awaiting data to confirm whether mucosal vaccines “deliver” on their promise to stop infections. But if they compete on the infection front, they could be the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines.
COVID-19 is still around and deadly — though it’s causing far less damage (about 400 deaths per day) compared to the January 2021 peak, when thousands of people were dying per day according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States. Vaccines and booster doses remain available and protect against serious illnesses for those who wish to take them. Some treatments, including the antiviral Paxlovid, are still available to prevent high-risk people from getting really sick, from getting really sick. This means that for most people, a positive COVID-19 test result does not mean the same thing today as it did in August 2020 or winter 2021.
Scientists hope mucosal vaccines will not only protect against serious illness and death, such as revolutionary mRNA vaccines and boosters have proven effective time and time again, but they also prevent infections. However, they will need a body of evidence behind them, which requires attention and money.
A vaccine you swallow, and ones you can inhale
Mucosal vaccines are different from traditional vaccine types because they penetrate through our mucous membranes, either into the lining lining our nose (as in the much-discussed nasal COVID-19 vaccine) or into our gut (as in a vaccine in oral suspension, such as QYNDR). Because of the different types of immunity they produce and the fact that they start where the virus enters our bodies, mucosal vaccines have been supported as viable, even favorable, options for combating COVID-19 infections. 19.
While the vaccines we have on the market in the United States – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – have been extremely effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, they are not as good as providing infection protection, or the ability of the vaccine to prevent you from testing positive, especially with current strains. (One of the criticisms of public messaging that the CDC faced earlier in the pandemic was when it seemed to suggest that vaccinated people couldn’t catch COVID-19, instead of leaving the emphasis on the fact that vaccines prevent serious illness and death.) If serious illness is not the goal of vaccination, a new method could renew some of the protection against infection that we saw at the start of the pandemic, when the ancestral strains of the virus were still present.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and principal investigator at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Medicine, said a new type of immune response and better protection against infections – like what is induced by mucosal vaccines – are what people will be looking for in future vaccines.
“It generates a different type of immune response, including different antibodies,” Adalja said, referring to how mucosal vaccines provide immunity, adding that there is “justification” to pursue them.
When we will have these new vaccines
The FDA has cleared vaccines for sale under emergency clearance, which is an expedited but still rigorous regulatory process that requires safety and efficacy data before vaccines are rolled out in mass. The public health emergency declaration is still active in the United States, and it’s unclear how or if the FDA will return to the strict, longer “approval” process it requires for drugs. Its advisory committee meets at the end of January to discuss future vaccinations against COVID-19. Among other things, the panel should discuss the timing of future booster doses and who should receive those booster doses.
In terms of mucosal vaccines, there are nasal vaccines on the market in China and India, although they have not been used as long as traditional forms and have less efficacy data. But such vaccines created overseas and brought into the United States might have the best chance of being cleared.
“The clearest path would be to see data on those already in the market outside of the United States,” Adalja said.
What is still unknown
It is virtually impossible to predict the next version of omicron – whether it will be better or the same at being neutralized by our treatments. Vaccines that make it through the FDA regulatory process will need science and good data to support their use, which requires research and money. For a vaccine to fill the giant shoes that mRNA vaccines have left on the healthcare system, its creators might need to prove that it offers better protection against infection, Adalja says.
“The advantages of mRNA vaccines were their speed, and it will take some time for these other technologies to overtake them,” he said.
Part of what gave the dominant vaccine companies their early advantage was the fact that they were part of the government-funded Operation Warp Speed program created to get COVID-19 vaccines out and protect people as soon as possible. But cost will be an issue once the pandemic “emergency” expires. Moderna’s CEO told the Wall Street Journal earlier this week that he was considering pricing his COVID-19 vaccine between $110 and $130 per dose.
Moderna did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.
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