I have been pushing for more funding for nasal vaccines since early last year when I wrote about trypanophobia and see also my Congressional testimony. The Washington Post reports that the idea is gaining traction among scientists but funding is limited:
As the omicron variant of the coronavirus moved lightning-fast around the world, it revealed an unsettling truth. The virus had gained a stunning ability to infect people, jumping from one person’s nose to the next. Cases soared this winter, even among vaccinated people.
That is leading scientists to rethink their strategy about the best way to fight future variants, by aiming for a higher level of protection: blocking infections altogether. If they succeed, the next vaccine could be a nasal spray.
…Scientists at the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority — known as BARDA — are vetting an array of next-generation vaccine concepts, including those that trigger mucosal immunity and could halt transmission. The process is similar to the one used to prioritize candidates for billions of dollars of investment through the original Operation Warp Speed program. But there’s a catch.
“We could Operation Warp Speed the next-generation mucosal vaccines, but we don’t have funding to do it,” said Karin Bok, director of Pandemic Preparedness and Emergency Response at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We’re doing everything we can to get ready … just to get ready in case we have resources available.”
In my estimation, Operation Warp Speed was the highest benefit to cost ratio of any government program since the Manhattan Project. Amazingly, despite having now seen the benefits of the program and the costs of the pandemic, a government that spends trillions every year can’t get behind millions for a nasal vaccine.
To be sure, the emergency is over. The risk to the vaccinated are now tolerable and the benefits of further investment are much less than before vaccines were available. But the costs are also lower. Much of the research on nasal vaccines has already been done–what is needed is funding for clinical trials.
A nasal COVID vaccine will also pay off in future vaccine programs. If in a future pandemic we were able to use nasal vaccines to vaccinate more quickly, that alone could save many lives.
Addendum: Here’s my post on RadVac the do it yourself nasal vaccine.