Future Finnish Nasal Spray Promised to Protect Against COVID Variants With No Risk of Blood Clots
The forthcoming Finnish vaccine version is set provide effective protection against the more contagious Delta and Delta Plus strains, which are gaining ground across the globe, and, unlike several popular vaccines has no risk of blood clotting as a side effect.
The makeup of the coronavirus nasal vaccine spray currently under development in Finland has been modified to enhance protection against common COVID-19 variants, its developers say.
The idea behind the upcoming vaccine is that it has the potential to create more effective protection against the coronavirus in the upper respiratory tract and nose, as it should be taken through the nose.
"The goal is to offer the widest possible immunity against several different viral variants", project leader Kalle Saksela, a professor of virology at the University of Helsinki, told national broadcaster Yle.
The forthcoming Finnish vaccine works in a similar way to the COVID vaccines manufactured by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, but it is administered nasally, instead of a syringe. It is based on a harmless adenovirus, that is a common cold virus, which is modified so that it cannot replicate.
According to the researchers, the nasal treatment bears no risk of blood clots, which proved to be a rare, but potentially deadly side effect of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
The nasal spray vaccine is being jointly developed by the University of Helsinki and the University of Eastern Finland, and has so far received "significant" funding of about EUR 9 million ($10.6 million) after initial struggles and failure to attract investors.
"The funding was key for the project to progress. This would not have progressed so far as merely an academic project. Now companies that specialise in clinical trials are helping us", Saksela said.
Saksela hopes that in the future the pandemic can be kept in check with the help of booster vaccines.
"I am a realist and believe that it will be enough if we regularly update the COVID vaccines, and regularly vaccinate the population. I don't think that there will be such a virus strain that can completely escape from the immunity many already have, and that we would be forced to start from scratch", he mused.
The project's developers are currently preparing a trial period and are in talks with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) about how many people it must include. Updated vaccines must be re-tested on animals to ensure that all is working as intended, before it can be tested on humans. The results must also be verified by external, independent bodies.
"Negotiations with the authorities will take place during the autumn at the same time as vaccine production begins. We hope we can start testing the vaccine at the turn of the year", Saksela said.
Volunteers are currently being recruited online in the cities of Kuopio and Helsinki.