China has released the first inhalable vaccine against COVID-19, in what is believed to be a world first. The inhaled vaccine is important not only because it can protect against infection, but also for people who hesitate to get vaccinated because of fear of needles, says a specialist.

Shanghai has already this week introduced the new type of vaccine against COVID-19, which is inhaled instead of injected, Reuters reports.

Chinese regulators approved the vaccine, made by Chinese pharmaceutical firm CanSino Biologics, for use as a booster dose in September.

The first people start receiving the inhalable COVID vaccine

And now, the first people are starting to receive the vaccine, which is inhaled through the mouth from a container that looks like a coffee cup.

“Our body’s first line of defense is the mucous membrane of the respiratory system. We want it to be stimulated directly to improve immunity and using the inhaled vaccine does that,” Dr. Zhao Hui, chief physician at Shanghai United Family Hospital Pudong, told Reuters.

For his part, Erwin Loh, medical director at St. Vincents Health Australia, said the advent of inhaled vaccines is important not only because of the potential to protect against infection, but also because it could reduce the number of people who are hesitant to get vaccinated: “There is a large proportion of people who are hesitant to get vaccinated because that they have a phobia of needles”.

Increasing vaccination rates is vital for China

Increasing vaccination rates is vital for China, which remains an isolated case globally as it maintains a “zero-COVID” policy aimed at eliminating outbreaks.

Shanghai, which reported no new domestically transmitted symptomatic coronavirus cases as of Oct. 27 and has 11 local asymptomatic cases, remains in a semi-lockdown impacting residential buildings and businesses.

According to official Chinese government data, more than 90% of its population has been vaccinated.

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