Researchers in UK and at a startup company in San Francisco are working on a pill form of the COVID-19 vaccine. Both groups think that a pill will be available by year end. Companies involved in development include:
- isoBio (Sussex, UK)
- Oxford University (UK, and a partner in development of the initial vaccine with AstraZeneca)
- ImmunityBio (El Segundo, California, in early Phase 1 clinical trial)
- Codagenix (New York City, nasal spray vaccine rather than pill, currently being tested in UK)
- Vaxart, (San Francisco, California) which announced in the fall that its pill might be five years out.
A little cynicism is warranted. isoBio, Oxford and Codagenix have delivered credible work and have public statements documenting progress. It’s not clear that the same is true for either ImmunityBio or Vaxart. The information they have available online is months old and leaves lots to be desired. Both took funds from the Trump administration, as part of the badly mis-named and mismanaged “Warp Speed” program and to the best of my knowledge, have not delivered. In this environment, when the most recent press release that Google can find on a COVID vaccine is from last October, that’s a problem.
A better way to administer a COVID vaccine is needed. Everything we know says that the coronavirus will continue to evolve, and, like flu shots, humans will need a dose every year. The current method for distribution is cumbersome and expensive, and some people just don’t like needles.
The evolution of this vaccine actually follows that of the Saulk polio vaccine in the 1950s. The initial administration was a shot, which changed to a sugar cube, and evolved from there into what we have today. I’m old enough to remember receiving both the shot and the cube.