The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation on September 6, 2022, approved the world’s first nasal vaccine for COVID-19 in India. It is made available for restricted use in an emergency situation to develop primary immunity against the coronavirus disease. Developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the University of Washington, the nasal COVID-19 vaccine is different from other vaccines in the way that it helps combat coronavirus by fighting the infection. The vaccine, called iNCOVACC is made available only for the 18+ age group. Let’s see how the newly developed intranasal COVID-19 booster jab can revolutionise the battle against coronavirus.
The most common route for vaccine delivery is subcutaneous (between the skin and the muscles). Until now, all the approved COVID-19 vaccines have been subcutaneous, often requiring injection into the upper area of the arm but this is not the case with nasal delivery. A nasal vaccine or nasal spray for COVID-19 is administered to a person through the nose and does not require needles.
As COVID-19 is an infectious disease and the virus enters the body through the mucosa (wet, squishy tissues that line the nose, mouth, lungs and digestive tract), it makes sense to act against the virus at the entry points. Hence, scientists have developed this intranasal vaccine to stop the virus in the mucosal region from triggering an immune response from cells and molecules there.
India’s new nasal vaccine is given as drops in the nose. Currently, it will be administered as a two-dose primary series for unvaccinated people rather than a booster shot. However, it might be approved as a booster dose in the future.
Before you understand how nasal vaccines work, you need to understand how prevalent subcutaneous vaccines work.
Intramuscular shots such as Covishield or Covaxin prompt an immune response to activate immune cells such as T cells, which destroy infected cells, and B cells, which produce antibodies that neutralize pathogens by binding to them, thus stopping them from entering healthy cells. These cells and antibodies circulate through the bloodstream and prevent further infection. However, these cells are not present at high enough levels in the mucosal region to provide rapid protection. Till the time these cells reach the entry points of the virus, the person is already infected since the virus spreads rapidly.
That’s when nasal vaccines are touted to be more effective. The vaccine has the ability to stop infection, end the cycle of transmission, and stop lung damage, and other adverse effects because it is administered through the nose, where the virus first enters the body. Book an appointment at Manipal Hospitals to know more about the Nasal Covid Vaccine in Bangalore.
In addition to T cells and B cells, nasal vaccines are able to activate another set of immune cells that hang around mucosal tissues. B cells present there, make another type of antibody, called IgA, that plays a key role in destroying airway pathogens. Moreover, the nearby T cells will be able to memorize the pathogens they encountered and will continue to scout the area where they were initially encountered.
According to experts, these vaccines might prove to be game-changers in the battle with coronavirus. Some of the main features and benefits of the nasal coronavirus vaccine are:
It can overcome potential difficulties with mass vaccination and reduce the cost by eliminating the need for needles and syringes.
An intranasal jab for COVID-19 can be given by any nurse or medical practitioner or even self-administered, thus there will not be dependence on trained healthcare workers.
It is cost-effective and so low- and middle-income people easily can take it.
The nasal vaccine has high compliance and suits children and adults ideally.
This vaccine is easy to store and transport as it can be stored safely in a refrigerator and does not require expensive equipment to carry.
Taking this vaccine is super easy - just a drop into the nose. People who are scared of needles can take the vaccine without any fear.
It will be effective for new covid variants as well. This is because the design of the vaccine can be updated quickly and easily simply by switching out the current spike protein with one from a new variant.
The manufacturing of the vaccine is scalable to meet the increasing global demand.
As per the researchers who created this vaccine, the main aim of the nasal vaccine is to reduce infection. They believe the more people the virus infects, the greater the possibility of producing new COVID variants, which keeps the pandemic going. Thus, the best way to protect them is to break the cycle of transmission and stop the virus from circulating.
Despite all these advantages, public health experts and researchers are divided on the success of the mucosal vaccine for COVID-19. According to some experts, there is very little evidence to back the effectiveness of nasal vaccines so far. Except for some flu vaccines attempts to deliver vaccines like this have not been very successful. Consult with our Infectious Disease Expert at Bangalore and get yourself vaccinated.
Covid nasal vaccine trials have been successful and the product development data will be made available soon in the public domain. As per an article by Washington University, Bharat Biotech launched two clinical trials of the nasal vaccine in India: a phase 3 trial involving about 3,100 previously unvaccinated people who received two doses of the nasal vaccine, and a booster trial with about 875 people who received a single dose of the nasal vaccine after two doses of another COVID-19 vaccine. These trials, which concluded in August, indicated that the vaccine is safe and effective at eliciting a strong immune response in people when used either as a primary vaccine or as a booster. The detailed process of vaccine trial is demonstrated in the picture below.
Here are some frequently asked questions on COVID nasal vaccine recently launched in India.
A: The first covid nasal vaccine was made available on September 6, 2022.
A: A nasal vaccine for coronavirus works by breaking the cycle of transmission of the virus. They stop infection at the entry point of the virus viz. mucosa thus preventing the spread of coronavirus in the body.
A: Nasal covid vaccine has many benefits over other vaccines that are injected into the muscular system. However, the efficacy of the vaccine will be proved after further testing and administration.
A: The nasal vaccine is administered as drops in the nose.
A: The intranasal vaccine is made available as a cheap, cost-effective vaccine for unvaccinated people. It is expected to be priced low and the government may provide it for free in government hospitals and public health centres.
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