UPDATED: January 7, 2021 | 15:32 IST
A nasal Covid-19 vaccine could be a reality in India soon with Bharat Biotech, the Indian vaccine maker, all set to start phase 1 and 2 trials of the nasal vaccine at Gillurkar Multi Speciality in Nagpur.
Bharat Biotech’s head Dr. Krishna Ella, said on Thursday, “We are working on a nasal vaccine and have partnered with the Washington University School of Medicine. We are working on a single dose vaccine compare to the two-dose inactivated vaccine. Research has proven that the nasal vaccine is the best choice. Coronavirus also attacks through the nose,” he said.
“We are all set to host the trials for the nasal Covaxin in the next two weeks. Enough scientific evidence is available that vaccines given through nasal route are more effective than injected ones. Bharat Biotech is in the process to submit a proposal to the DCGI shortly,” said Dr. Chandrashekar Gillurkar.
The trials will be conducted on at least 30-45 healthy volunteers above the age of 18 till the age of 65 years at four trial sites in the country – Bhuvneshwar, Pune, Nagpur, and Hyderabad.
Presently, Bharat Biotech is working on two intranasal vaccines — one with US-based vaccine maker FluGen and scientists from the University of Wisconsin Madison and the other with the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Experts say the nasal variant of the Covid-19 vaccine, which is presently under trial in the US, if successful, could play a major role in stopping transmission of the virus
WHAT IS NASAL VACCINE?
Unlike other Covid-19 vaccines that are administered intramuscularly (or through the muscles), this one is delivered via the nose, which is also an initial point of infection in humans.
A study done by the University of Washington School of Medicine in St Louis found that the nasal delivery route created a strong immune response throughout the body, but it was particularly effective in the nose and respiratory tract, preventing the infection from taking hold in the body.
ARE NASAL VACCINES BETTER THAN INJECTIONS?
Experts say the new Covid-19 vaccine has the potential to become a game-changer because injecting the vaccine intramuscularly only protects the lower lung. A nasal vaccine can protect both upper and lower lungs and can prevent transmission of the virus as well as an infection.
Dr. Samiran Panda, senior epidemiologist at Indian Council of Medical Research said nasal vaccine provides benefits such as faster absorption, lesser volume, and no use of syringes.
“There are two arms of the immune system in the body – one is antibody or protein and one is cellular immunity. Mucosal immunity is created when administered a nasal vaccine against those infections that enter our body through the nose or respiratory tract. Coronavirus impacts the respiratory tract the most. Therefore, the nasal vaccine is much better. Antibodies will be secreted directly into the nasal mucous membrane, where you need more concentration of the antibody because it is where the infection begins from.”
When administered orally or nasally, the antigen is presented to the mucous membrane, the absorption is much better and it quickly goes to the lymph nodes. There is an effective presentation of the viral antigen directed at the infection.
Earlier rabies vaccine used to be given in the subcutaneous fat and now is being given intra-dermal injection route (through the skin). A similar immune response can be generated with a much small dose.
An influenza vaccine called FluMist, delivered via the nose, uses the weekend form of live influenza virus but can’t be administered to certain groups including those whose immune systems are compromised by cancer, HIV, and diabetes.
In contrast, the new coronavirus intranasal vaccine does not use a live virus capable of replication presumably that makes it safer.
The United Kingdom independent Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has approved Open Orphan and Codagenix to conduct a phase 1 study of its nasal Covid-19 vaccine in the country.