Next Generation of Covid-19 Vaccines Could Be Pill or Spray

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The next generation of Covid-19 vaccines in development could come as a pill or a nasal spray and be easier to store and transport than the current handful of shots that form the backbone of the world-wide vaccination effort.

These newer vaccines, from U.S. government labs and companies including

Sanofi SA,

Altimmune Inc.

and

Gritstone Oncology Inc.,

also have the potential to provide longer-lasting immune responses and be more potent against newer and multiple viral variants, possibly helping to head off future pandemics, the companies say.

Vaccines currently authorized for use in the U.S. from

Pfizer Inc.

and its partner

BioNTech

SE, as well as

Moderna Inc.,

must be transported and stored at low temperatures and require two doses administered weeks apart.

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New vaccines could “constitute some improvement” over those limitations and more easily accommodate vaccination efforts in rural areas, said

Gregory Poland,

professor and vaccine researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “You will see second-generation, third-generation vaccines,” he said.

There are 277 Covid-19 vaccines in development globally, of which 93 have entered human testing, according to the World Health Organization. Most of the vaccines in clinical testing are injected, but there are two oral formulations and seven nasal-spray formulations.

Altimmune is developing its Covid-19 vaccine as a nasal spray.



Photo:

Ting Shen for The Wall Street Journal

Many of the next-generation vaccines are in the early-to-middle phase of human testing, which means they may not become available until later in 2021 or in 2022. There is no guarantee the vaccines will succeed in testing, and some of the companies developing them, such as Altimmune and Gritstone, have never brought a vaccine to market.

If proven to safely protect people from Covid-19, the new vaccines could serve as boosters in the U.S., where a majority of the adult population is expected to be inoculated by summer with currently authorized vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and

Johnson & Johnson.

Infectious-disease specialists increasingly expect periodic boosters will be needed to extend the duration of protection from the new coronavirus and to build defenses against variants. They also are looking into whether giving a person doses of two different vaccines can improve their effectiveness.

New vaccines could also be used as primary vaccinations in countries that are lagging behind in mass immunization campaigns.

“It’s critically important down the road to have vaccines that are easier to handle and have better cold-chain characteristics,” said

John Mascola,

director of the vaccine-research center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Altimmune, of Gaithersburg, Md., is developing a Covid-19 vaccine that is administered as a nasal spray, similar to the FluMist influenza vaccine from

AstraZeneca

PLC that is a popular choice for children for seasonal flu vaccination.


‘It’s critically important down the road to have vaccines that are easier to handle and have better cold-chain characteristics.’


— John Mascola, director of the vaccine-research center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

“It’s a very easy and efficient way to administer the vaccine,” said Scot Roberts, Altimmune’s chief scientific officer. “You don’t need needles and syringes.”

The vaccine uses a modified version of a harmless virus called an adenovirus, which is engineered to carry a genetic code that instructs…



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