World’s first needle-free COVID vaccine gets the nod

  • The world’s first inhaled COVID vaccine gets the nod in China.
  • The vaccine named Ad5-nCoV has been approved to be used as a booster in previously vaccinated adults.
  • The inhaled mist will stimulate immunity and also protect the nose which is the primary point of entry for the COVID virus. 

In the true sense of the words “coming full circle”, the world’s first needle-free COVID vaccine just got approved in China.

Made by the Tianjin-based firm CanSino Biologics Inc. this COVID vaccine named Ad5-nCoV was approved by the National Medical Products Administration in China on the 5th of September. 

How does it work? 

This vaccine is a new version of CanSino’s original one-shot vaccine, which was incidentally also the first in the world to undergo human testing in March 2020. It was used extensively in China, Mexico, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Hungary.

The vaccine uses a harmless version of the common cold virus to carry ”information” about the

COVID virus into the vaccinated person.

This information is a formulation containing pieces of genetic material so the body can recognize the virus and in turn produce immunity. This immunity is in the form of antibodies as well as a boost to the number of natural immunity cells present physiologically.

The basic difference between the injectable form and the new vaccine is the route of delivery. The new vaccine is an inhaled variety that works almost like a mist. A nebulizer machine turns it from a liquid into an aerosol spray.

Advantages 

The new inhaled vaccine is currently approved for use as a booster in already vaccinated individuals. Thus it serves two major purposes.

This form of an inhaled vaccine may be more palatable to individuals skeptical about getting a shot multiple times. It’s also cost-effective and efficacious according to initial reports.

Another major benefit is that the vaccine, since being delivered from a nasal route, aims to provide better protection to the nasal mucosa and underlying structures including the upper airways. This is important since the COVID virus is an airborne pathogen that enters the body via the same route.

Is it worth its hype?

Clinical trials of the mist as a booster, following a single injected dose of the vaccine, showed that it was about as effective as the two-dose vaccine that’s widely used in Asia and abroad.

This isn’t the first time that a needle-free experience is being offered as an alternative to a traditional vaccine. This lies in examples of the FluMist intranasal vaccine seen in pediatricians’ offices every flu season,  but this is a first for COVID.

That being said, evidence from the natural history of past flu diseases has shown that the mist doesn’t always achieve the same level of efficacy as a shot.

According to the WHO, the injectable single-dose CanSino shot is about 92 percent effective at preventing severe disease due to COVID-19, and about 58 percent effective at preventing illness entirely. How its inhaled counterpart will fare is yet to be revealed.

Meanwhile, in India, a similar feat has been achieved by Bharat Biotech which also got the nod for its inhaled COVID booster vaccine.

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