The Grapevine

Scientists Find Oral Vaccine Effective In Protecting Kids From Deadly Viruses

Amid the growing number of people hesitating to get vaccinated due to false claims about side effects, scientists continue to explore the benefits of vaccines and promote their use. Now, an international team found that there is a more effective and safe form of vaccines for almost all people. 

A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports shows that an oral vaccine, either in drops or powdered form, is more effective than injections. Researchers also suggested that such form is cheaper and more easily administered, particularly in children. 

In the study, the team explored the use of the oral vaccine for hepatitis B. The disease affects nearly 257 million people worldwide, with hundreds of thousands dying from the infection, according to the World Health Organization. 

To date, creating an oral form of a vaccine is difficult due to lack of materials that could encapsulate and protect it until it reaches its intended destination in the body. Danish researchers in partnership with scientists from Brazil found that the silica-material called SBA-15 could effectively encapsulate a hepatitis B vaccine. 

"Now we know what makes the vaccine less effective, and how to optimize it. We know exactly how much vaccine should be put in the silica capsule for it to work best in the body and the clinical trials can be better interpreted," Heloisa Bordallo, study author and an associate professor at the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark, said in a statement

Creating an oral vaccine would significantly help communities in developing nations where injectable vaccines are expensive and are affected by harsh environmental conditions.  

"Getting rid of needles being poked into the arms of little children is an advantage in and of itself,” Martin Rasmussen, study author and a former student at the Niels Bohr Institute, said. “It also eliminates any need to sterilize needles and possible side effects such as swelling and infection.”

He noted that unlike injectable drugs, oral vaccines do not require refrigeration, which cuts storage costs. 

The researchers hope their findings would help develop new oral vaccines against other types of diseases, like diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Hib and hepatitis B.