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WVU Researchers Developing Nasal Vaccine to Combat COVID-19

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WVU Photo/Brian Persinger
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Heath Damron, director of the WVU Vaccine Development Center, leads the nasal vaccine project at WVU.

Researchers at West Virginia University’s vaccine development center are developing a new way to get vaccinated against COVID-19, creating a nasal mist vaccine as an alternative to the traditional, needle-based vaccine.

WVU Vaccine Development Center Director Heath Damron says the vaccine would be inhaled through the nose, giving the body’s airways a more direct immune response. Nasal vaccines are currently used in the United States to fight other infectious diseases like the flu, creating a precedent for a similar vaccine for COVID-19.

“A nasal vaccine installs immunity potentially right where it counts, which is where the virus or pathogen or bacteria would arrive,” Damron said.

Both types of vaccines accomplish the same goal, but a study his team ran showed taking both vaccines worked better than taking only one type separately. A nasal vaccine could also potentially work better with children or pets.

Damron’s team has been working with COVID-19 for over a year, and are submitting grants to continue their work for five years or more.

“Even if we do fully, eventually win, and we don’t have a COVID world anymore, what we learn about COVID immunology and vaccinology will be important to thwarting future problems as well,” said Damron. “If the pandemic were over tomorrow, I think we’d still be working on these things, because we don’t want to see this ever happen again.”

The team is currently researching how its vaccine works against new COVID-19 strains, including the Delta variant.


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