Brits could be offered vaccines as ‘sprays and tablets’ to speed up rollout

Coronavirus vaccines could be offered as nasal sprays and tablets – potentially offering “large advantages”.

The Oxford University and AstraZeneca jab has already been given to millions of Brits across the UK.

However, scientists may replace the needles with “second generation formulations”.

Professor Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, discussed the research as she was quizzed by MPs on the Science and Technology Committee.

She said: “We are also thinking about second generation formulations of the vaccine.

"As you know all the vaccines have been given at the moment as intramuscular injections, and that is not necessarily the best way to provide protection against a respiratory virus infection, where we want the immune system to be active in the upper respiratory tract and then in the lower respiratory tract, which is where the virus is causing the infection.

"We have flu vaccines that are given by nasal spray and this could be a very good approach in the future to use vaccines against coronaviruses.

"It's also possible to consider oral vaccination where you take a tablet, that will give you that immunisation, and that would have a lot of benefits for vaccine rollout if you didn't have to use the needles and syringes.”

Both of these approaches are in their early stages and a series of tests still need to be carried out.

Prof Gilbert continued: “The immune responses that will be generated by both of those approaches will be a little bit different to what we get from an intramuscular injection, but they have potentially large advantages.

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"And so that's where we're going to be focusing our attention on working out if we could use different delivery routes in the future for these vaccines."

Meanwhile, Moderna has produced a vaccine that works specifically against the South African variant of coronavirus, with trials due to start in the US.

The firm is experimenting with several potential methods of combating new variants of Covid, with a view to potentially offering new or booster shots.

It comes after studies suggested that current vaccines offer less protection against the South African variant, which has a key mutation – E484K – that is thought to help the virus evade parts of the immune system.

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Ministers are also considering whether "vaccine passports" could be used in Britain to reopen nightclubs and other venues.

They could be required to enter pubs, live gigs, theatres and open up other parts of the economy.

Prime Minister Boris Johnsonconfirmed a study will be carried out into introducing "Covid status certification" as he unveiled his roadmap out oflockdownon Monday, February 22.

It would involve using testing or vaccination data to confirm people have a lower risk of spreading coronavirus.

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