The Chinese city of Shanghai started administering an inhalable COVID-19 vaccine last Wednesday in what appears to be a world first. www.pbs.org/newshour/world/china-begins-administering-inhalable-covid-19-vaccine-boosters?
The vaccine, a mist that is sucked in through the mouth, is being offered for free as a booster dose for previously vaccinated people, according to an announcement on an official city social media account.
Scientists hope that such “needle-free” vaccines will make vaccination more accessible in countries with fragile health systems because they are easier to administer. They also may persuade people who don’t like getting a shot in the arm to get inoculated.
As of mid-October, 90 percent of Chinese were fully vaccinated and 57 percent had received a booster shot.
Chinese regulators approved the inhalable vaccine in September, but only as a booster shot after studies showed it triggered an immune system response in people who had previously received two shots of a different Chinese vaccine.
A vaccine taken as a mist could fend off the virus before it reaches the rest of the respiratory system, though that would depend in part on the size of the droplets, one expert said.
The inhalable vaccine was developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company CanSino Biologics Inc. as an aerosol version of the company’s one-shot adenovirus vaccine, which uses a relatively harmless cold virus.
The traditional one-shot vaccine has been approved for use in more than 10 markets including China, Hungary, Pakistan, Malaysia, Argentina and Mexico. The inhaled version has received a go-ahead for clinical trials in Malaysia, a Malaysian media report said last month.
Regulators in India have approved a nasal vaccine, another needle-free approach, but it has yet to be rolled out. The vaccine, developed in the United States (US) and licensed to Indian vaccine maker Bharat Biotech, is squirted in the nose.
About a dozen nasal vaccines are being tested globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Lalita Panicker is consulting editor, views, Hindustan Times, New Delhi