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The potential benefits of an 'intranasal' COVID vaccine

Get those tissues ready.

A COVID-19 vaccine that's nasally administered — rather than shot into the arm — could provide heightened upper respiratory protection, Stat News reported Tuesday. 

Intramuscular injections are still a "spectacular" line of defense, Stat writes, but they do not provide the "sterilizing immunity" needed to block all infection in nasal passages. Of course, like any vaccine, one that's nasally-administered is unlikely to block all COVID infection, but experts say it could do a "better job" than existing ones "by better protecting mucus membranes of the nose and throat." 

Moreover, an intranasal vaccine wouldn't require a syringe, cutting both cost and medical waste, nor would it likely necessitate an administering health care professional, writes Stat. Plus, an intranasal inoculation is usually easier to offer to young kids and those with a fear of needles. 

All that said, the development of such a tool might be far off. It's not yet clear if the mRNA vaccines could be reformulated, and an intranasal candidate is likely to be a "next, next, next-gen vaccine," adds Florian Krammer, a vaccinologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. Funding is reportedly also an issue.

"It may be possible but would take a lot of work and may require some new innovations," said Barney Graham, who led the team at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that designed the Moderna vaccine. "There are other groups working on it."