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As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in India, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Sunday noted that while there were no intranasal vaccines under clinical trial in the country.

This however is set to change soon, with the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech forging ahead to collaborate with other organisations to develop intra-nasal vaccines for the deadly virus that has claimed more than 1.11 million lives globally.

What did Dr Harsh Vardhan say?

Speaking on Sunday, the Health Minister had said that the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech were expected to pursue clinical trials of such vaccines in India in the coming months after regulatory approval.

Hyderabad-based drugs and vaccine research and manufacturing company, Bharat Biotech, has entered into an agreement with Washington University and St. Louis University for the trials of the nasal vaccine candidate. Under this, it will conduct trials, produce and market an intranasal vaccine for the COVID-19. While Phase 1 trials would be held outside the country, further stages of the trials will be conducted in India after the company receives regulatory approval.

Another intranasal vaccine is being developed by the US-based biotech company Codagenix along with Serum Institute of India. Dubbed CDX-005, it is a single dose intranasal vaccine made with a live attenuated version of the virus.

"The preclinical animal studies have been successfully completed, and Codagenix expects to initiate a Phase 1 first-in-human clinical trial in the UK by the end of 2020," he said.

What is an intranasal vaccine?

While most of us are familiar with vaccines that come in the form of injected shots or oral drops, an intranasal vaccine is sprayed into the nostrils and then inhaled.

This has the benefit of requiring far less equiment and expertise. There's no need for syringes and the like, and people can even administer it to themselves in a manner similar to a nasal spray. Reports indicate that an intranasal vaccine can help create an additional immune response in people.

As the NCBI notes in a research paper uploaded to its official website, such vaccines are especially beneficial for children, elderly patients, HIV-infected patients and multi-morbid patients who are fed up with injections.

Will such a vaccine be effective?

While one would hope so, it is not known yet, simply because trials of the COVID-19 nasal vaccine candidate are yet to be held. According to the Health Minister, Phase 1 trials of the vaccine candidate will take place in St Louis University's vaccine and treatment evaluation unit while further stages of the trials will be conducted in India.

What we do know however is that scientists say that vaccines delivered through inhalation could bring about a more specialised response.

"It is also a clear advantage, that nasal vaccination induces both mucosal (protection at site of infection) and systemic immunity. In contrast, intramuscular vaccination primarily induces systemic immune response (antibody formation). In addition, intranasal vaccination may confer protection against infections at other mucosal sites, such as the lungs, intestines and genital tract, and provide cross-protection against variant strains through mucosal antibody secretion. Another important advantage: the nasal cavity is easily accessible," explains a paper on the 'Advantages of Intranasal Vaccination and Considerations on Device Selection'.

(With inputs from agencies)

(To download our E-paper please click here. The publishers permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

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