Updated Nov 26, 2021 - Health

COVID vaccines of the future might not be shots

Illustration of a syringe made from pills.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As vaccine makers pursue the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines, some are working to develop products that wouldn't require a shot.

Why it matters: Delivering a vaccine through a pill or a nasal spray could make them much easier to administer, especially in places where distribution is challenging — or even for people who just don't like needles.

Driving the news: San Francisco-based biotech Vaxart is working on a COVID vaccine that would be delivered in an oral tablet.

  • India's Bharat Biotech advanced its nasal COVID-19 vaccine candidate into a phase 2 clinical trial earlier this fall.

What they're saying: Vaxart founder and chief scientific officer Sean Tucker told Axios he started the company because he found it difficult to get his flu shot every year.

  • "I thought 'Hey, if someone mailed me a tablet in the mail every year, I would take that vaccine all the time,'" Tucker said.

State of play: Tucker will present details of the oral vaccine program at the World Vaccine & Immunotherapy Congress West Coast 2021 next week.

  • Vaxart began enrolling about 100 people in a Phase 2a clinical trial last month and expects to have a readout of that efficacy trial in the first quarter of 2022.
  • Vaxart's vaccine showed promise in animal trials, the results of which were published in early October.

What's next: Even if everything continues to go well, the earliest the company would be able to apply for an emergency use authorization from the FDA is still at least a year to 18 months away — but the world will still need COVID vaccines in a year to 18 months.

Editor's note: This story was originally published on Nov. 24.

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