Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Friday approved Bharat Biotech International Ltd’s intranasal covid-19 vaccine, iNCOVACC, for emergency use in adults for both primary and booster shots.
The vaccine can be administered to individuals who have received primary doses of Covaxin and Covishield, the two most used vaccines against covid-19 in India.
We have given approval to the intranasal covid vaccine. It can also be used as a ‘precaution’ dose. Now, the vaccine is being included in the covid-19 immunization program and updated on the Cowin platform,” Mandaviya said. The Cowin website maintains the records and books slots for covid vaccination.
A nasal vaccine will allow India to quickly immunize its population during a surge in infections as they can be sprayed into the nose rather than injected into the arm, making the process painless. Nasal vaccines would also do away with the need for needles and syringes.
Scientists claim nasal vaccines may be the more effective in preventing infections because they protect the mucosal linings of the nasal airways, where the coronavirus first enters the body.
The approval for intranasal covid vaccines comes at a time China is struggling with a surge in infections because of the Omicron BF.7 variant. In addition, new cases are climbing again in Japan, South Korea, Brazil, and the US in the winter.
India is keen that more Indians take booster doses as the protection offered by the primary doses may have waned. However, the pace of vaccination has slowed to a trickle as the number of cases in India declined, leading to a sharp drop in people getting booster doses. The government hopes that the easy-to-administer nasal vaccine will encourage those yet to take the so-called precautionary dose to boost their protection against the virus. Bharat Biotech claims iNCOVACC is the world’s first intranasal vaccine that can be stable at 2-8°C, making it easy to store and administer. According to the company, the vaccine underwent phase 3 clinical trials for ️a primary dose schedule and as a heterologous booster dose, where the people had previously received two doses of the commonly administered covid vaccines in India—Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. The evaluation was also carried out for the ability of iNCOVACC to elicit long-term memory T and B cell responses against the ancestral and omicron variants. Heterologous booster dose studies were conducted for safety and immunogenicity in 875 subjects. They were given the intranasal vaccine after two doses of Covishield or Covaxin shots. The trials were conducted in nine sites across India.