Dr. Sanjay Mukundan
With the recent surge in COVID cases in different parts of the country, it has become evident that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. According to experts, RNA viruses, such as the SARS-CoV-2, possess the capability of higher mutation and that is close to one million times higher than their host. The virus mutates rapidly wherever it travels. With over thousands of mutations, there is always a risk of a new variant that may be more dangerous than the previous one. Many countries throughout the world especially in Asia and Europe are facing the fourth wave of the pandemic already.
While Omicron fuelled the third wave in India a few months back, the new XE covid variant has hinted towards a possible fourth wave in India as well. While India has been successful in inoculating its 80 percent population with both doses and 97 percent with a single dose of vaccine, the need for more effective and stronger vaccine doses is still there considering the newer mutations of the virus.
In this context, the emergence of the nasal vaccine has become much more crucial to be spoken about, a nasal vaccine as the name suggests is given through the nose. It is a known fact that the SARS-COV-2 infiltrates the body through the nose or the mouth. The objective of a nasal vaccine is like a nasal spray that can prevent the infection by blocking the entry point of the virus. The nasal vaccine works by taking advantage of our immune system’s ability to produce highly specific antibodies and T-cells — not only in response to viruses but also where each virus attacks us.
So, the emergence of a nasal vaccine can be a game-changer in combating the spread of the virus. In the 1960s, the internasal vaccine was first seen as one of the most effective methods of preventing infections when polio doses replaced its injected predecessor. Various countries are putting their best possible effort to come up with a nasal vaccine to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nasal vaccine has the potential to turn the COVID-19 pandemic into an endemic. While Sputnik V has come up with the World’s first nasal vaccine against novel coronavirus, Indian vaccine manufacturer Bharat Biotech, the maker of Covaxin has already begun its phase 3 clinical trial of intranasal vaccine a month ago and the initial results are promising.
The Gamaleya institute tested the Sputnik nasal vaccine on children aged between eight and 12 and found no side effects among the test group, including no increase in body temperature. Nasal vaccines aim to overcome potential difficulties with mass vaccination and reduce the cost by doing away with the need for needles and syringes. Experts suggest that nasal vaccine can be a crucial weapon in eradicating vaccine hesitancy, especially among people who are afraid of needles.
Apart from easy administration, nasal vaccines are proved to be more effective in reducing person-to-person transmission of the disease. Nasal vaccines can be most beneficial for children and the elderly as it is easy to use and non-invasive.
Nasal vaccines are also a ray of hope for people who are infected with HIV as nasal vaccine works as a spray and there is no fear of needle-stick injuries. When the world is highlighting the need for booster doses, the nasal vaccine can be the answer for the same apart from reducing the logistical hassles.
(The author is the Joint Secretary, Association of Foreign Graduated Physicians, India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)