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Dartmouth Hitchcock researchers working on nasal vaccine for COVID

photo of vaccine vials
Vials of vaccine. Researchers at Dartmouth Hitchcock are working on a new, nasally administered COVID-19 vaccine they say would be easier to administer and distribute.

Researchers at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon are working to develop a new COVID-19 vaccine that would be administered using a nasal spray.

No nasal vaccines are currently available in the U.S., though several are under development.

The researchers are working with the National Institutes of Health and Belgium-based manufacturer Exothera to bring the vaccine to market.

Dr. Peter Wright, an infectious disease physician at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and professor at Dartmouth College's Geisel School of Medicine, is leading the research team.

He said the nasal vaccine would be easier to administer than existing vaccines, which are given by injection, and wouldn’t require storage in an ultra-cold freezer.

“That limits the use of the vaccine in many parts of the world,” he said. “So this vaccine would not be exclusively for the developing world, but might have a particular application there.”

Wright said nasal vaccines could also do a better job preventing viral transmission. Existing vaccines, like those made by Pfizer and Moderna, are highly effective at lowering someone’s risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. But they don’t necessarily stop someone from spreading the virus to other people.

Wright said there’s reason to think nasal vaccines could do that more effectively, by strengthening immunity in the upper respiratory tract.

“There's a lot of scientific data to back up the fact that this is a very effective way of giving a vaccine,” he said.

Wright said the vaccine has shown promise in animal trials, and the first clinical trials could begin in about six months. He expects it to be at least a year and a half to two years before the vaccine hits the market.

“We're anticipating, though, that COVID is going to be around in one form or another, for that period of time and longer,” he said.

Corrected: August 30, 2023 at 2:16 PM EDT
An earlier version of this story mischaracterized how the COVID-19 vaccine is administered. The currently available vaccines are given intramuscularly.
Paul Cuno-Booth covers health and equity for NHPR. He previously worked as a reporter and editor for The Keene Sentinel, where he wrote about police accountability, local government and a range of other topics. He can be reached at
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