NORFOLK, Va. - Instead of using a needle, imagine taking a pill to protect yourself against COVID-19.
In the race for a vaccine, Vaxart, a company specializing in oral vaccines, has developed a unique way to fight the virus.
“The biggest thing that we do is we solve the end user problem,” Vaxart Founder and Chief Scientific Officer Sean Tucker told News 3. “What we did was we tried to create something that could be used over and over again.”
During the pandemic, Vaxart created an oral COVID-19 vaccine currently undergoing a Phase 1 trial.
“It's a little white pill about the size of a U.S. Advil tablet,” Tucker said.
He believes their vaccine could be easier to administer and distribute.
“Once we make the vaccine, we can just send it out by mail or Amazon drone or whatever you want, and actually immunize a large number of people without having to worry about things like freezers, refrigeration or having a healthcare provider to basically administer that vaccine,” Tucker said.
News 3 Medical Expert Dr. Ryan Light calls the vaccine a “game changer,” and believes the tablet makes it more acceptable to patients.
“People are scared of injections. They're scared of what's in them,” Light said. “If you can develop an oral vaccine, that we can take orally, I think you're going to see a lot of benefit because people would be more willing to take a pill than take an injection.”
Light told News 3 oral vaccines are not a new concept but haven't been mainstream.
Tucker said their company has worked on vaccines for other viruses, including the flu.
“We've had to spend some time proving that it works,” Tucker said. “We've had clinical trials. We've showed that it worked really well in flu. We have a clinical trial that shows it works very well in norovirus and other indications. I think now when you ask, ‘Why is there a big push for oral?’ Obviously, all the advantages are there. It just wasn't real for a while, and now the data backs up there's actually something real there.”
Both hope the pill comes to market soon to help protect against COVID-19.
“We may not be the first, but we may be the best solution from the standpoint of a pandemic vaccine,” Tucker said.