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India and China authorize needle-free COVID-19 vaccines

NEW DELHI — India and China have approved a new approach to vaccination against COVID-19: two needle-free options, one injected into the nose and the other inhaled through the mouth.

Indian regulators on Tuesday cleared Bharat Biotech’s nasal version as an option for people who have not yet been vaccinated.

“This step will further strengthen our collective fight against the pandemic,” Indian Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Twitter.

It’s not clear how well the nasal version works. Bharat did not immediately release the results of his studies or say when the new option will be implemented.

CanSino Biologics announced Sunday that Chinese regulators have approved an inhaled version of the company’s injected COVID-19 vaccine to be used as a booster dose. The company pointed to preliminary study results suggesting the inhaled version sped up immune protection after a puff. It’s not clear if that translated into greater effectiveness or how soon the inhaled booster will be available.

Today’s COVID-19 vaccines are injections, have saved millions of lives, and continue to offer strong protection against serious illness and death, even as more contagious variants of the coronavirus circulate.

But non-injection versions are being explored as a strategy to improve protection against infection, with particular interest in nasal vaccines designed to fend off the virus right where it enters the body. Nearly a dozen potential candidates are in various stages of testing globally, and CanSino is one of two inhaled vaccine candidates in development, according to the World Health Organization.

India’s nasal vaccine was developed by scientists at Washington University in St. Louis and later licensed by Indian vaccine maker Bharat Biotech. The company conducted two trials, giving two doses of the vaccine to 3,100 previously unvaccinated volunteers and as a booster to around 875 volunteers who had received two injections of other COVID-19 vaccines.

Bharat is also seeking authorization for the nasal spray to be used as a booster for the two-thirds of people in India who have already been vaccinated.

Bharat’s nasal spray uses a harmless chimpanzee cold virus to deliver a copy of the coronavirus spike protein to the lining of the nose, training the body to react if it encounters the real virus.

CanSino’s inhaled booster uses a similar harmless human cold virus: it’s the company’s one-dose injected vaccine converted into an aerosol form. The inhaled vaccine was extensively tested as a booster for people who had received the company’s COVID-19 another Chinese company.

Ashley St. John, who is an immunologist at Duke-NUS School of Medicine in Singapore, said scientists are looking at nasal and inhaled vaccine options against COVID-19 because the immune system has specialized tools to protect different sites in our body. in slightly different ways.

“The advantage of nasal vaccines is that you can eliminate the virus before it has a chance to establish itself in the lungs and replicate,” said Dr. Vineeta Bal, an immunologist and professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education Research in Pune. City.

The benefits of mouth-sprayed vaccines will depend on the size of the individual droplets in the spray, Bal added. Large droplets would train defenses in the mouth and parts of the throat, while smaller droplets are expected to travel deeper and reach the lungs.

It may also be easier to give a squirt up the nose than an injection, especially in low-income countries, said Dr. Michael Diamond of Washington University in St. Louis, who helped create the licensed vaccine for Bharat.

In October 2021, the Russian Ministry of Health allowed the first trials of a nasal form of Sputnik V among 500 volunteers, but the status of those trials and the availability of the vaccine remain unclear.

Vaccination rates in India have fallen in recent months and detected cases have stagnated. About 940 million people, or 67% of the population, have received the first two vaccinations, but only 15% of them have received a third booster vaccination.

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AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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