The scientists behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine are now looking into the possibility of jab alternatives.

As the UK surpasses 20 million jabs administered in the fight against the virus, researchers behind the vaccine are looking at the possibility of pills or nasal sprays as a possible alternative.

Professor Sarah Gilbert, from the University of Oxford's vaccinology department, believes nasal sprays or pills could prove to be more effective in providing protection.

She told a Parliamentary Committee: "We are also thinking about second generation formulations of the vaccine - as you know all the vaccines have been given at the moment as intramuscular injections, and that is not necessarily the best way to provide protection against a respiratory virus infection, where we want the immune system to be active in the upper respiratory tract and then in the lower respiratory tract, which is where the virus is causing the infection."

She pointed out that flu vaccines are sometimes delivered via nasal spray, adding, too, that not having to use needles and syringes could help speed up rollout of protection against coronavirus.

When could Covid vaccine pills and sprays be available?

Prof Gilbert, however, cautioned that delivering coronavirus pills and nasal sprays would take some time, given the amount of research and testing required.

Oxford scientists are not the only ones to be looking into such technology. Researchers from the University of Birmingham having looked into nasal sprays for coronavirus since last April. They hope that nasal sprays could help mitigate the need for social distancing if coronavirus endures as a public health issue.

Prof Gilbert said a decision will need to be taken over the summer as to whether an autumn vaccination campaign will be required to fight against new variants of coronavirus.

She said:  "I think we need to make a decision over the summer, we will start to get data from the clinical trials on the immune responses to the variant vaccine, both against the virus variant and against the original virus, and we will then be able to monitor the situation and decide what should be happening in the autumn."