WASHINGTON (AFP) – Imagine a Covid-19 vaccine that came as a pill: no needles, no medical professionals required to administer it, potentially delivered directly to people’s homes.
Israeli pharmaceutical Oramed is attempting to accomplish just that, and is poised to start its first clinical trial early this month, chief executive officer Nadav Kidron told Agence France-Presse in an interview.
With just 15 per cent of the world’s population fully vaccinated, the global fight to end the pandemic is far from over.
Oral vaccines are particularly attractive for the developing world because they reduce the logistical burden of immunisation campaigns, said Mr Kidron.
But they could also increase uptake in wealthy countries where needle aversion is an often missed factor in vaccine hesitancy.
A recent survey found that nearly 19 million Americans who decline vaccines would take them if they had a pill option.
“In order for the vaccine to really work well, we need as many people to take it as possible,” said Mr Kidron.
Other benefits include reduced syringe and plastic waste, and potentially fewer side effects.
Despite many theoretical advantages, there have been few successful oral vaccines because the active ingredients tend not to survive the journey through the gastrointestinal tract.
Exceptions include vaccines for diseases that are themselves transmitted through the mouth and digestive system – for example, there is an effective oral polio vaccine.