Oral vaccine proves safe and effective against coronavirus in initial trial, according to preprint
An experimental ‘oral vaccine’ taken as a tablet has been shown to be safe and effective against coronavirus in a phase 1 clinical trial.
The drug’s San-Francisco-based manufacturer, Vaxart, said the pill was “safe, well-tolerated” and generating a promising immune response for up to six months in the 35 healthy adult volunteers who took part in the trial.
According to a report posted in July on the pre-print server for health sciences, MedRxiv, the tablet works by inducing antibodies in the mucosa—the tissues lining the nose and airways.
The hope if that the tablet version will be easier to take and provide longer-lasting protection against different coronavirus variants.
“One of the most important challenges with current Covid-19 vaccine strategies is that injected vaccines stimulate robust serum antibody responses against the Wuhan strain of Sars-CoV-2, but these responses quickly decline, and they are not as effective against the currently circulating viral variants,” said Sean Tucker, Vaxart’s senior vice-president and chief scientific officer.
“This has resulted in breakthrough infections in many people who have received injected vaccines,” he added.
“Our clinical study results showed that our vaccine candidate stimulates broadly cross-reactive mucosal IgA responses that persist for at least six months in most responders, and up to a year in a subset of them following just a single dose.”
The tablet is just one of several projects looking to deliver Covid-19 vaccines without needles, including through skin patches, inhalers and nasal sprays.
UK booster programme
Meanwhile, the UK’s medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, announced earlier this week that it had approved an updated version of a Covid-19 vaccine, made by the American pharmaceutical firm Moderna, which targets two coronavirus variants with a single jab.
The vaccine was one of several advised for use in the government’s autumn boost programme by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is not on the JCVI’s list of recommended vaccines for the autumn boosters, and the health department’s guidance notes from 17 August say that “AstraZeneca vaccine is no longer being supplied for routine use in the UK”.
On 15 August the government said it would offer an autumn Covid-19 booster to people aged 50 and over, as well as residents and staff in care homes, frontline health and social care workers, unpaid carers, those in clinical risk groups between the ages of five and 49 and household contacts of those who are immunosuppressed.