In the past week, regulators in both India and China approved inhalation vaccines for Covid-19. The companies behind these vaccines say they will boost the immune response of people who have already been vaccinated. This is what we know so far.
What are the new vaccines?
On Sunday, CanSinoBIO, a biopharmaceutical company based in Tianjin, China, announced that its inhaled vaccine, called Convidecia Air, was approved as a booster by China’s National Medical Products Administration. The vaccine is inhaled by mouth and the company states it can “effectively induce comprehensive immune protection in response to Sars-CoV-2 [the virus that causes covid-19] after just one breath.”
The approval was quickly followed by that of another inhalation vaccine developed in India. On Tuesday, Bharat Biotech, based in Hyderabad, announced that the company’s nasal vaccine, known as iNCOVACC, was also approved in that country. The vaccine is approved under “restricted emergency use” as a booster dose for people who have already had two doses of injected vaccines.
How do they work?
Both vaccines promise to elicit an immune response in the lining of the airways — something immunologists call a mucosal response. Once antibodies are present here, they should be able to provide a faster response to any invading virus. In theory, this kind of immunity could prevent a person from becoming infected with the virus and prevent them from transmitting the virus to others. “They’re where the virus will be found, which means they can act very, very quickly,” said Ed Lavelle, an immunologist at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland.
Do we really need more covid-19 vaccines?
We could use better ways to protect ourselves from Covid-19. While the number of covid-19 cases continues to fall – worldwide weekly cases have fallen by about 12% in the past week – the virus is still responsible for many deaths. Last week, one person died of Covid-19 every 44 seconds, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday. “Most of these deaths were preventable,” he said.