covid research

Yale Researchers Hope to Create Nasal COVID-19 Vaccine

A blue bandaid on an arm
NBC Connecticut

While the omicron variant still has not been identified in Connecticut, there are now five cases in neighboring New York state, and doctors say it's only a matter of time before it arrives here.

One issue being looked at is if existing vaccines are effective against this variant, and how to keep on top of future mutations.

"It does concern the immunologist like myself, because the existing antibodies, and even potentially T cell responses will be impacted by these mutations. So how well the vaccines work against Omicron is still unclear right now on how many people are testing neutralizing antibodies and so on," explained Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, a researcher at Yale.

At Yale there is a study to develop a nasal vaccine that could make it easier to adjust for future variants.

Iwasaki said they are looking at a vaccine with a different delivery - a mucosal vaccine that would involve a spray in the nose instead of a shot in the arm. This is less invasive and creates a local immune response.

"This is more superior than circulating immune response. Because it's much more resistant to the mutations that are incurred by the virus. And it's also local, meaning that you prevent the invader sort of before it can do any damage," explained Iwasaki. "So if we are to, you know, implement this new causal vaccine strategy, in the future, we may not have to worry about, you know, every variant that arises, because we will have more resilient and more sort of universal coverage of different variants."

Taking one nasal spray instead of a series of shots and boosters seems a bit easier, but it's not a reality just yet.

"There are several companies trying to make nasal vaccines. And as I mentioned, it's really the combination and formulation of vaccine delivered nasally that would provide a protective immunity while you know, having the least side effects is what's really needed right now. And I am hoping that, you know, soon we will see some new development of these kinds of vaccines that we can all use."

For the time being Iwasaki said she thinks we may have to tighten public health measures in addition to vaccines and boosters to better fight off variants.

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