The world's first inhaled COVID-19 vaccine has been approved in China.
The Chinese company CanSino Biologics Inc said on Sunday its inhaled version of a coronavirus vaccine had been approved by the country's drug regulator for emergency use as a booster.
The vaccine, called Convidecia Air, uses the same adenovirus vector technology as its sister injectable version. However, it provides a needle-free option that might convince more people to get boosted as new versions of coronavirus continue to spread.
The inhaled vaccine, which can be self-administered, changes the liquid form of the vaccine into an aerosol using a nebulizer so it can be inhaled through the mouth.
The needle-free vaccine "can effectively induce comprehensive immune protection in response to SARS-CoV-2 after just one breath," CanSinoBIO said in a statement.
CanSinoBIO's initial jabAd5-nCoV (brand name Convidecia) has proved to be 57.5 per cent effective against symptomatic COVID-19 overall and 91.7 per cent effective against severe disease four weeks or longer after a single dose, according to Phase III clinical trial results published in The Lancet.
However, outside China, it has struggled to compete with vaccines made by Sinovac and Sinopharm.
Convenient and lower dosage
CanSinoBIO says its inhaled vaccine is convenient as it requires only one-fifth of the dosage of the intramuscular version, and can be transported and stored between 2°C and 8°C - unlike some injectable vaccines that require ultra-low temperatures.
About a dozen inhaled coronavirus vaccines are currently in research and development. AstraZeneca, together with the University of Oxford, is among the pharmaceutical companies exploring this avenue.
CanSinoBIO said however it was uncertain when its vaccine would be able to go to market, since additional administrative approvals are still needed, while sales would depend on the COVID-19 situation at home and abroad, as well as China's vaccination rate.
China has seen a recent flare-up in COVID outbreaks.
The southern tech hub of Shenzhen imposed a weekend lockdown in most parts of the city on Saturday, while the southwestern metropolis of Chengdu put its 21 million people under lockdown on Thursday.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to include the latest Phase III clinical trial data on CanSinoBIO's single-shot Ad5-nCoV vaccine