UVA researchers developing intranasal COVID-19 vaccine

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Posted at 8:38 PM, Feb 15, 2021

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Dr. Bill Petri, an infectious diseases professor at the University of Virginia, and others are studying the impacts of COVID-19.

“Having additional vaccines is always a good thing,” Petri told News 3.

His team is in the process of creating a COVID-19 vaccine that’s not a shot, but rather a spray.

“There's no need for needles,” Petri said. “We're working on a device that would actually spray it into your nose, similar to like an asthma inhaler where you inhale through your mouth.”

It’s an intranasal vaccine, similar to a flu vaccine already on the market.

Petri said there's benefits to this type of vaccine, especially as it relates to COVID-19.

“The idea is that one gets infected through the nose,” he said. “It's very appealing for that reason to immunize directly in the nose because then you're going to simulate the immune system where you need it the most.”

He told News 3 his team is already seeing promising results.

“We're only testing right now in a mouse model of COVID-19, but the work has shown that up to nine months after vaccination, we're still seeing high antibody levels,” Petri said. “Nine months in the life of a mouse is like 20 years in the life of a person.”

News 3 Medical Expert and Chesapeake family practice physician Dr. Ryan Light is familiar with intranasal vaccines.

“It's just a good weapon to have with us for those people who are ‘needle-phobic,'” Light said.

He has administered intranasal flu vaccines in the past.

“Very simple, easy to use - [it] takes about 30 seconds to give it, and there's no pain with a needle,” Light said. “It's easy for most people to tolerate, especially for kids.”

Dr. Petri and his team are preparing for testing in non-human primates.

Related: Virginia Beach company offers mobile COVID-19 testing

As for Dr. Light, he believes when it comes to vaccines, the more the better to fight COVID-19.

“If we have other options, we can get more patients in,” he said. “More manufacturing of different vaccines helps out because we have more manufacturers, so we can get more doses out to the people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

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