China is experimenting with a nasal spray vaccine that can be delivered without an injection.

A new Chinese vaccine is ready to begin its clinical trials. Its peculiarity lies in its mode of administration: a nasal spray instead of an injection, which makes it super easy to deploy.

This project is the result of a collaboration between the University of Hong Kong and the University of Xiamen, together with the pharmaceutical company Beijing Wantai. The tests will take place in November in the autonomous territory, where the recruitment of a hundred volunteers has already started.

Its formula is based on attenuated common flu viruses endowed with genetic protein segments from SARS-CoV-2, according to Science and Technology Daily, an official publication of the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology.

Based on this information, previous studies in mice and hamsters show that the solution significantly reduces lung damage caused by COVID-19. What is not clear yet are the side effects the vaccine may cause as well as the potential for this vaccine to be used in mass amounts, since it can be deployed in a spray form. Could it eventually be used to mass vaccinate whole populations inadvertently?

Although it is not the most common method, the nasal spray has already been used before to prevent the flu. Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, explained in statements to the continental tabloid Global Times that this procedure reproduces the path of viruses when accessing the body.

By staying longer in the respiratory tract, the compound is expected to be effective in activating the immune response and preventing infection.

This new vaccine is the 10th Chinese project to reach the clinical trial phase. All of them are being carried out abroad –in countries such as Argentina, Peru, Morocco, Bahrain or the United Arab Emirates–, since the Asian giant says it does not have enough infected in their country to carry them out.

According to its always dubious official figures, China has not registered locally transmitted infections since last August 16 and only 403 cases remain active (0.4%) of the 90,623 registered to date.

This new advance also means that of the five lines of research underway, at least one prototype has been completed. In addition to the nasal spray, the other four techniques use inactivated compounds, viral vector, DNA and an RNA messenger, one of the most controversial forms of delivery since it threatens to modify humans from the inside out.

Forecasts indicate that the inactivated vaccine from the Chinese National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) will be the first to reach the commercialization phase.

In mid-August, its manager announced that it would be available “probably in December” and at an estimated price of 120 euros.

Another advanced project is the one developed by the Military Academy of Medical Sciences and the biotechnology company CanSino, which also last month received the first official patent. However, the country’s authorities have not waited for the vaccines to conclude their clinical trials to begin their application.

Two weeks ago, China acknowledged that it had vaccinated “its essential civilian workers” for more than a month. The number of people inoculated is unknown, as well as the compound used.

Worldwide, 35 other projects are conducting clinical trials in an increasingly frantic race. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has criticized in recent days the competitive nature of some investigations.

“We must overcome, and this is related to the possible lack of funding, the worrying trend of numerous parallel initiatives and efforts focused at the national level, which not only undermines an effective global response but will be counterproductive,” said the Portuguese.

During a virtual meeting with the World Health Organization (WHO) held last May, Chinese leader, Xi Jinping assured that the Chinese vaccine would be “a global public good” once it is finished, anticipating his will to share it.

China has already promised priority access to nearby countries such as Russia, Brazil, the Philippines and Indonesia; as well as the nations of the Mekong River Basin – Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.

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