While India waits for more vaccine approvals, some experts, including the NITI Aayog, feel that a nasal vaccination is the huge game-changer needed to help stop the pandemic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Monday that nasal spray research is ongoing and that if successful, it will help India's vaccine campaign.
India is finally seeing fewer cases of Covid-19, and authorities are rushing to vaccinate people and safeguard them against the fatal virus's third wave. Efforts are being stepped up to mass-produce vaccines and make them available in the shortest amount of time possible.
The fact that this vaccination is non-invasive is one of the factors that distinguish it from others. This means that this vaccine does not involve the use of needles and does not require the assistance of health professionals to administer.
What is an intranasal vaccine?
Vaccines are given in a variety of ways, the most common of which are injections into the muscles (intramuscular) or the tissue lying between the skin and the muscles (subcutaneous). Other methods of distribution, particularly for child immunizations, include taking the liquid solution orally rather than injecting it. In the intranasal route, the vaccine is sprayed into the nostrils and inhaled via the intranasal method. Its goal is to deliver the dose directly to the respiratory pathway, similar to a nasal spray.
Last year, researchers produced a Covid-19 vaccine that can be administered in a single dose by the nose and is effective in avoiding infection in mice vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. Unlike these, the one delivered through the nose targets the original site of infection and causes a more widespread immune response, according to a study published in the journal, Cell.
Soumya Swaminathan, the chief scientist of the World Health Organization (WHO), recently stated that studies to create nasal vaccines are currently underway in India and that this “could be a game-changer for children.” Bharat Biotech's intranasal vaccine, BBV154, is already in the pre-clinical trial stage.
Mucosal Immune System
Dr. Vipin M. Vashishtha, a physician and former chair of the IAP Committee on Immunization, told Business Insider that intranasal vaccines have the benefit of eliciting a strong immune response at the point of virus entrance – the nose.
SARS-CoV-2 frequently enters our bodies through our noses, where it comes into contact with a protein called ACE2, which is abundant in our nasal passages. The virus enters our cells through ACE2. The mucosal membranes that border our airways, digestive tracts, and reproductive tracts are often the first sections of our bodies to be invaded by a pathogen. A network of immune cells dwells under our mucous membranes, or mucosae, and serves as the first line of defense against intruders, preventing the spread of most illnesses. This is the mucosal immune system, which some immunologists believe has been greatly undervalued.
Our mucosal immune cells produce a specific type of antibody that is constantly produced from the mucous membranes to protect the nose, gut, and other sensitive areas against infections we've seen before. Infections with SARS-CoV-2 trigger both systemic and mucosal immunity. However, our current COVID-19 vaccines only provide systemic protection. Developing vaccinations that are sprayed into the nose rather than injected into the arm could change that, according to the researchers.
How would it work?
Vaccines given through the nose or mouth would activate a different set of immune cells in mucosal tissues. The B cells in this area can produce an antibody called IgA, which is particularly powerful in killing gut and airway infections. T cells in this tissue can remember where they initially encountered infections and patrol those areas.
If an efficient mucosal immune response is elicited, the coronavirus infection may be prevented from the start, and the virus's transmission may be reduced more efficiently. The intranasal vaccination is a live attenuated vaccine, which means it uses a weakened form of the germ, according to a study from the University of Washington School of Medicine.
What is the importance of a nasal vaccine in India?
By eliminating the need for needles and syringes, the single-shot intranasal Covid-19 vaccine developed by Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis and licensed to Bharat Biotech promises to solve possible challenges with mass vaccination and lower costs. According to experts, intranasal vaccines will reduce the need for a variety of qualified persons to give the vaccine.
It's because it's simple to use — simply spray it into your nose — and it can be self-administered in pandemics and epidemics.
Bharat Biotech's Nasal Vaccine
Nasal vaccinations developed by Bharat Biotech in India and Senotize, a biotech firm based in Canada, are expected to put a stop to the worldwide spread of the coronavirus in the near future.
According to recent reports, both firms have announced that their nasal vaccinations are in the last phases of clinical trials and would be released in the global market shortly in order to effectively limit the widely spreading coronavirus.
Suchitra Ella, joint managing director of Bharath Biotech, recently stated that nasal vaccines are more cost-effective and efficient than intravenous injection vaccines into the body.
The JMD stated recently during a virtual event hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) that Bharath Biotech's BBV154 is a new adenovirus vectored intranasal vaccination with encouraging findings from first-phase clinical studies done on 175 people in four locations across India.
Advantages of a Nasal Vaccine
Nasal vaccines, in addition to delivering improved immunity prospects, maybe self-administered and have fewer adverse effects, according to specialists. When compared to the number of syringes and shipping costs required for injected vaccines, it is more cost-effective and takes fewer resources. Furthermore, because the vaccine may be absorbed quickly by the blood vessels, there is a lower risk of our bodies rejecting its effectiveness.
Oral and intranasal vaccinations are both stables at room temperature, making them easier to ship and potentially boosting vaccination access in remote or resource-limited areas. Both have the benefit of being easier to administer, whether as a nasal spray, pill or drop on the tongue. As a result, acceptance may improve, particularly among children and the needle-averse.
Possible problems with the Nasal Vaccine
According to specialists, there is very little data to support the usefulness of this route of delivery so far, and attempts to give vaccines, with the exception of some specific flu vaccines, have not been successful.
Few people are thinking about getting their Covid-19 immunization intranasally. Only five of the 187 Covid-19 vaccine candidates under research by the World Health Organization (WHO) are specifically mentioned as studying the intranasal method of delivery.
While this notion has been thoroughly explored in animals, whether it holds true in humans is still completely unknown, thus clinical trials in this area will need to be thoroughly monitored.