The commercial hub of China, Shanghai, this week unveiled a new type of COVID-19 vaccine that is administered via inhalation rather than injection, which is said to be a first for the world. The CanSino Biologics vaccine was given the go-ahead to be used as a booster in September by Chinese authorities. Currently, the first patients are beginning to receive the vaccine, which is inhaled via the mouth using a device that resembles a take-out coffee cup with a short mouthpiece.
The respiratory system’s mucus membrane serves as the body’s first line of defence, thus Dr. Zhao Hui, chief medical officer at Shanghai United Family Hospital Pudong, told Reuters that utilising the inhaled vaccination directly stimulates that membrane to boost immunity. The novel vaccination, which will be administered in addition to standard injection doses, is being given by his hospital among others.
Erwin Loh, chief medical officer at St Vincents Health Australia, commented on what he claimed was a first application of the technology. He said the development of inhaled vaccines was significant not only because they have the potential to prevent infection but also because they may reduce vaccine hesitancy. ‘A big percentage of people are unwilling to receive the immunisation because they are afraid of needles. They might not be able to express it, but that is what they are thinking’, he said.
For China, which continues to be a global outlier due to its adherence to its ‘zero-COVID’ policy, which aims to eradicate community outbreaks of the virus, increasing vaccination uptake is essential. There are still targeted lockdowns in place in Shanghai, which has reported 11 local asymptomatic cases and no new domestically transmitted symptomatic coronavirus cases as of October 27. In announcing the inhalable vaccine launch this week, the Shanghai government’s WeChat account stated that 23 million of the city’s 26 million inhabitants had received their initial COVID vaccinations in full and that more than 12 million had received booster shots.
More over 90% of China’s population has had a vaccination, according to official government statistics. The nation has relied on domestically made, inactivated vaccines and hasn’t yet imported or introduced its own mRNA vaccine. The inhable vaccination is an inactive shot in aerosol form. Loh is hoping that Shanghai’s experiment with breathed vaccines would inspire other nations to take a similar step. The future, according to him, would involve inhaled vaccinations for respiratory diseases like COVID-19.