Most vaccines are injectable or inhaled solutions- needing refrigeration- that contain killed viruses or fragments of viruses that the body’s immune system will recognize. But researchers are working on creating nanovaccines, which also contain killed viruses, but in really small synthetic particles (think 1/1,000,000th of a millimeter) instead of suspended in solution like traditional vaccines. These particles are designed to be thermally stable, so they can be stored at room temperature for 6-10 months and still be effective. The goal is to maximize these vaccines so they can be delivered via nasal spray in only one dose, eliminating follow-up boosters! Nanovaccines have been effective in rodents, and studies in larger animals are already underway.
This could make a huge difference to EVERYONE receiving vaccines by reducing inconveniences associated with refrigeration, maximizing efficiency of nasal delivery, and eliminating the need for follow-up boosters. In 2012, only about 1/3 of teenage girls in the United States actually received all three doses of the HPV vaccine. In 2011, only 9% of children worldwide received all three doses of the rotavirus vaccine. Vaccine compliance could be dramatically increased by eliminating the need for booster shots, and availability could be greatly improved by eliminating the need for refrigeration! Let’s hope that researchers can create effective nanovaccines that will work in humans!