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Could a nasal COVID-19 vaccine actually work?

nasal vaccine coronavirus
Marco Verch Professional Photographer/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • COVID-19 is more volatile than other diseases that have nasal vaccines
  • Mucosal immunity is tricky, according to experts
  • If a nasal vaccine can be made for COVID-19, it could be a game-changer

A nasal vaccine may offer an advantage in generating immunity to COVID-19, but some experts suggest that there is difficulty in manufacturing them that would hinder widespread use. 

The type of vaccine which is used to build immunity via nasal inhalation is absorbed through soft, moist tissues in the nasal cavity known as mucosa. These are also present in the eyes and mouth, but nasal absorption can prevent a COVID-19 infection from taking root in this more vulnerable tissue faster than a vaccine which is administered with an intramuscular injection. 

The volatile and novel nature of SARS-Cov-2 means that there is not yet an effective but weakened strain or isolated genetic material ready to mass-produce a vaccine. Vaccines need to be effective but minimize the number of symptoms experienced by patients. This volatility is what has surrounded contentious debate about when a viable vaccine will appear: the development takes a bit of time. 

Mucosal inoculations are also less understood by experts. There are fewer options that have been proven effective for a nasal vaccine than there are for injections. 

Should a viable nasal vaccine be created, it could stand to change the game where COVID-19 is concerned. Although an uncommon method of vaccination, a nasal inhalation could protect the most vulnerable part of the body first. 

Read more on the coronavirus vaccine:

Sources: NPR, New York Times, National Geographic


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