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23.01.2020 Europe

Pill vaccine a potential game changer in fighting flu

Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
LISTEN JAN 23, 2020
Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

As the world looks to contain China's coronavirus, a new pill vaccine that staves off the common flu is also making headlines, after clinic trials showed it works just as well as the traditional jab in preventing H1 influenza.

A study from Stanford University found that VXA-A1.1, an oral tablet created by biotechnology company Vaxart, actually performed better – relative to the placebo – than the market-leading Fluzone shot.

Fewer people got sick after receiving the tablet than the injection, with infection rates reduced by 47 percent, compared to Fluzone's 43 percent.

The pill vaccine, which uses a non-spreading adenovirus to carry the flu protein, stands to be a game changer – helping to make vaccinations more widespread by eliminating people's fear of needles.

Stanford University researcher David McIlwain, who worked on the study, published this week in Lancet Infectious Diseases, says the pill could significantly improve global vaccination rates given it will be easy to distribute and administer.

“This study is a significant step towards an oral flu vaccine making it to market,” McIlwain told Fox News.

The flu – a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that appear most frequently in winter and early spring – causes mild to severe illness by infecting the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs.

The more people that can be vaccinated, the better – with herd immunity vital in slowing the spread of infectious diseases through a community.

The researchers say that given pill vaccines are quicker and cheaper to manufacture, they may also make them more accessible in developing countries.

While results of the Vaxart oral vaccine are encouraging, scientists say the pill itself won't hit the market for at least another five years.