World’s first inhaled COVID vaccine approved in China: How does it work?

China is the first nation in the world to approve a needle-free version of the COVID-19 vaccine. Convidecia Air developed neutralising antibodies for Omicron for 92.5 per cent of people who were part of the trials

Representational image. PTI

Vaccine seekers in China no longer have to worry about getting poked by a needle as the world’s first inhaled version of the COVID-19 vaccine has been approved in the country.

Made by CanSino BioLogics’ (CanSinoBIO), the vaccine, Convidecia Air, uses a harmless adenovirus that carries the genetic code that teaches the body how to fight the virus.

The company claims that the non-invasive vaccine can effectively induce comprehensive immune protection in response to SARS-CoV-2 after just one breath.

What is Convidecia Air?

China’s National Medical Products Administration has approved CanSinoBIO’s Convidecia Air for emergency use as a booster vaccine, according to a statement released by the company to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Unlike intramuscular vaccines, intranasal vaccines don’t require low-temperature storage or health professionals to administer them. According to Nature, inhalable vaccines can be self-administered through disposable devices and need minimal storage requirements for mass vaccination.

According to the company, the inhaled version of the COVID-19 vaccine can stimulate cellular immunity and induce mucosal immunity to boost protection without intramuscular injection.

How does the vaccine work?

The needle-free vaccine changes the liquid form of the COVID-19 vaccine into an aerosol using a nebuliser.

Convidecia Air is a class of vaccine that uses a modified version of a different virus to deliver instructions to cells that trigger an immune response. According to Nature, these types of vaccines are called viral vector vaccines.

Once the vaccine enters a cell, the gene is transcribed to produce spike protein. This protein then serves as an antigen that stimulates the immune system to recognise the COVID-19 virus.

According to CanSinoBIO’s co-founder and chief scientific officer Tao Zhu, the inhalable vaccine mimics the way COVID enters a human body via airways. The vaccine’s aerosols can be inhaled into the respiratory tract and lungs to initiate an immune response.

After the vaccine reaches the lungs, it eliminates the genes which are responsible for virus replication from the Adenovirus Type 5 Vector.

How effective is the vaccine?

During its clinical trials that were conducted last year in July, it was found that the inhaled version of CanSinoBIO’s vaccine triggered immune responses without eliciting any serious side effects.

According to a report by Mint, two inhaled doses of the vaccine which were given 28 days apart produced the same levels of antibodies as a single dose of injection would.

A study reveals that people who received one booster dose of the intranasal vaccine after two doses of the inactivated jabs of Sinovac’s intramuscular vaccine developed more antibodies than people who received three doses of Sinovac shots.

According to Fortune, 92.5 per cent of people who were part of the trials developed neutralising antibodies for Omicron, four weeks after receiving the inhaled booster dose.

Are intranasal vaccines better than intramuscular vaccines?

As per the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a US government agency that looks into public health research, nasal vaccines prove as the first barrier for most viruses. A study shows that even small amounts of antigen derived from the vaccines elicit a protective response against viruses.

In addition to this, intranasal vaccination offers protection against infections at other mucosal sites like lungs, intestines and the mouth.

Intranasal vaccines are non-invasive and cause little to no discomfort to patients. Following an outbreak of highly infectious diseases, intranasal vaccines may be best suited to stop the spread of a virus as they don’t require skilled people to conduct mass vaccinations.

Are other countries pushing for nasal vaccines?

In the US, prominent scientists have asked the government to accelerate efforts to develop inhaled and nasal spray vaccines, as they believe that intranasal vaccines may provide better protection against Omicron variants than injected jabs.

Similarly in the UK, scientists say that nasal vaccines have the best chance to bring down COVID transmissions. Scientists are calling for a renewed focus on intranasal vaccines. According to a report by The Guardian, Dr Sandy Douglas, a member of the team that made the AstraZeneca vaccine, said, “Solving this problem of inducing really effective immunity to block transmission is such an important challenge, it really deserves to receive significant attention and energy even though it’s going to take some time and effort.”

Last month, Bharat Biotech International said that its BBV154 intranasal vaccine has proven to be safe and well-tolerated among subjects. The vaccine has been specifically formulated to allow intranasal delivery, according to a report by ANI.

With inputs from agencies

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