Vaccine Central

Medical researchers eye the next generation of protection against COVID-19

(CNN) — A wave of COVID-19 is crashing over the United States again fueled by BA.4 and BA.5 strains.

The latest variants are said to spread more easily and evade prior immunity. Dr. Megan Ranney, associate dean of public health at Brown University, said, “I’ve been telling folks that it feels a little bit like we’re in a no man’s land of COVID.”

Hospitalizations and deaths are rising, but not yet to the peaks we’ve seen in past surges. Health officials say it’s because of COVID-19 vaccines.

The next era of protection could come in the form of a pill or spray.

Ranney said, “Those are in prehuman trials or in very small Phase 1 human trials.”

Both will need to go through more rigorous, larger-scale testing before even trying to get authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but some medical researchers say delivering vaccines via tablets or nasal sprays would deploy more immune defenders to the lining of the mouth, nose and throat to make the virus less able to replicate. That could slow the development of new coronavirus variants and finally bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control.

But, there are hurdles. Ranney said, “We have a ways to go still. In a best-case scenario, months, but if we don’t see more money coming, it could be much longer than that.”

For now, health officials and experts continue to urge vaccination and boosters for those eligible.