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The first flu vaccine in pill form may be around the corner, study finds

First flu vaccine in PILL form may be around the corner after study finds one-third fewer people fell ill after receiving an oral tablet than a shot

  • Researchers have developed an oral tablet, VXA-A1.1, that protects against the flu virus similarly to the flu shot
  • Participants were either given the tablet, the injectable vaccine or a placebo
  • 29% of the oral vaccine group fell ill compared to 35% of the injectable group and 48% of the placebo group
  • The pill outperformed the flu shot relative to the placebo by 36%

A new flu vaccine pill that is more effective than the injectable shot may be around the corner, a new study reveals.

Researchers say fewer people were sickened after receiving the oral tablet, VXA-A1.1 – created by biotechnology company Vaxart, Inc – than Fluzone, the leading vaccine injectable.  

The pill also outperformed the flu shot – relative to the placebo – in offering protection by 36 percent. 

The team – a mix of Vaxart and Stanford Universality researchers – says pill versions of vaccines are faster and cheaper to manufacture, and may make these medications more accessible in developing countries.  

A new study showed that, when participants were given a new oral flu vaccine pill compared to the standard injectable, 29% of the tablet group fell ill compared to 35% of the shot group (file image)

‘This study is a significant step towards an oral flu vaccine making it to market,’ co-author Dr David McIlwain, a senior research scientist at Stanford University told Fox News. 

‘The availability of an oral flu vaccine would be a major breakthrough not only because of the obvious comfort of avoiding a needle prick but because an oral tablet vaccine would be easier and faster to distribute and administer than an injectable vaccine, which could have a major impact on improving global vaccination rates.’     

For the study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the team recruited 179 participants between ages 18 and 49 from August 2016 to January 2017.

They were randomly assigned to receive either the oral tablet, the injectable vaccine or a placebo.

Between December 2016 and April 2017, they were exposed to the Influenza A/H1N1 strain, one of the most common forms of the flu.

When tested for the virus, it was 29 percent of the oral vaccine group, 35 percent of the injectable shot group and 48 percent of the placebo group. 

What’s more, the risk of even getting the flu was reduced by 39 percent in the pill group relative to the placebo, compared to a 27 percent reduction in the shot group.

‘Influenza continues to be a serious public health problem affecting all age groups and causing severe illness and sometimes death in high-risk populations,’ said Dr Wouter Latour, chief executive officer of Vaxart, in a statement.   

‘A convenient and effective tablet vaccine may significantly increase current vaccination rates, generating important public health benefits for at-risk groups and the population as a whole.’  

It comes on the heels of news that flu activity is widespread in just about every US state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

So far, more than 13 million people have fallen ill and 120,000 people have been hospitalized, preliminary figures reveal.

An estimated 6,000 people have died so far, 39 of whom are children.

The CDC says Influenza B strains – which are more severe in children – have been dominant in the US this season and are the cause for at least 70 percent of pediatric deaths. 


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