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UVA Hopes to Build a Better COVID Vaccine


Even as Americans are lining up for highly effective COVID vaccine, scientists at the University of Virginia are working on a new approach to protecting the public. Their new vaccine could be better for three big reasons.

As Chair of Infectious Diseases at UVA, Dr. Bill Petri knows vaccines, and he says there’s always room for improvement. 

"We’ve had influenza vaccines for 30-40 years.  We’re still working to improve influenza vaccines,” he says.   

That’s why his lab is working on a vaccine that would be administered as a nasal spray directly into the respiratory tract.

“The beauty of what we’re doing is it's a needle-free vaccine that stimulates immunity in the lungs. That’s going to be  useful not just for COVID-19 but for influenza and other respiratory viruses,” he explains.

It doesn’t need to be kept super cold, and it should offer immunity to those variants you’ve heard about.  Already it’s proven effective in mice.  Next week Petri will apply for a grant to test in primates, and even though he’s some years away from FDA approval, he’s confident this approach will prove valuable.

“COVID-19 is not going to go away," Petri says. "It’s going to be part of cold and flu season every year.”

His team is collaborating with scientists at labs in Seattle and Charlottesville and at Emory University where research could mean a more powerful vaccine that offers immunity from COVID for decades.  

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief