Medical professionals continue to find new and easier ways to get the coronavirus vaccine to the world’s population with one company looking at whether the lifesaving substance can be taken in pill form.
The team behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, which was developed in the UK and will be the vaccine most Australians will receive this year, has launched research into developing it into a pill.
The medical breakthrough is expected to help nations inoculate their populations faster and at a lower cost.
Professor Sarah Gilbert, the lead researcher behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, told MPs her team was “thinking about second generation formulations of vaccines”.
Prof Gilbert warned developing the vaccine into a pill form or a nasal spray would “take time to develop” but the research could lead to massive change across the world’s medical community.
“As you know all the vaccines have been given at the moment as intramuscular injections,” she said.
“That is not necessarily the best way to provide protection against a respiratory virus infection, where we want the immune system to be active in the upper respiratory tract and then in the lower respiratory tract, which is where the virus is causing the infection.
“And we have flu vaccines that are given by nasal spray. This could be a very good approach in the future to use vaccines against coronaviruses.
“It’s also possible to consider oral vaccination where you take a tablet that will give you the immunisation, and that would have a lot of benefits for vaccine rollout if you didn’t have to use the needles and syringes for people.”
Developing an easier way for the vaccine to be taken could mean nations are able to provide annual booster shots against coronavirus.
Medical experts have repeatedly warned coronavirus will likely, after widespread vaccination, become similar to the seasonal flu.
“They have potentially large advantages, and so that’s where we’re going to be focusing our attention on working out if we could use different delivery rates in the future for these vaccines,” Prof Gilbert said.
The research into coronavirus vaccines comes as Johnson & Johnson, another company that developed a jab for COVID-19, revealed its immunisation could be given in a single dose.
According to an analysis by the US’ Food and Drug Administration, the single shot of Johnson & Johnson was found to be about 66 per cent effective at preventing moderate to severe coronavirus disease.
The vaccine is likely to be authorised on Friday, making it the third available in the country hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.
US President Joe Biden plans to distribute “three to four million doses next week”, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said yesterday.
“Johnson & Johnson has announced it aims to deliver a total of 20 million doses by the end of March,” he added.
The potential for a third coronavirus vaccine for the US comes as the beleaguered nation recorded more than 500,000 deaths relating to COVID last week.
Around 44.5 million Americans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine from Moderna or Pfizer and around 20 million have received their second dose, giving them full protection against coronavirus.
Johnson & Johnson’s clinical trials involved more than 44,000 people across the US, South America and South Africa.
Early studies show the single shot of vaccine prevented all hospitalisations and deaths, 28 days after receiving the jab.