China sees new COVID-19 outbreaks as Shanghai starts massive booster campaign using new inhalation doses

BEIJING, China – The city of Shanghai announced the first large-scale COVID-19 inhalation booster campaign. All residents above the age of 17 who haven’t received a booster shot yet have been told to register through an app. The new booster method comes as Shanghai is once again dealing with recent COVID outbreaks.

Within the first hour, most comment sections related to the news on social media were blocked. And they had good reason to do so. Some of the few remaining comments on China’s Twitter-like social media platform, Weibo, mainly showed concerned citizens. One person wrote: “I support the vaccination campaign, but will the outcome be good this time?” Another comment reads, “does it even matter if I take it or not?”.

Once the comment sections were re-opened the messages suddenly became more positive. Using the hashtag “Shanghai launches new crown vaccination for inhalation,” it had reached some 4.3 million views.

China has been working on an inhalation booster for over a year. The booster created by Shanghai Shangyao Kangxinuo Biopharmaceutical, called adenovirus vector type 5, is inhaled via a straw. A press release from the company stated that the booster uses so-called engineered viruses (adenoviral vectors) that are harmless to the body. The engineered viruses carry a genetic code that induces a higher immune response over time.

Residents shop at a supermarket in Xuhui District of eastern China's Shanghai on May 16, 2022.

Residents shop at a supermarket in Xuhui District of eastern China’s Shanghai on May 16, 2022.
(Ding Ting/Xinhua via AP)

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The company press release said studies showed that six months after the inhaler booster, in combination with the regular COVID vaccines, high levels of neutralizing antibodies had been maintained within the body. No exact efficacy rates of the inhaler booster are provided.

In September, the National Medical Products Administration of China approved the first inhaled COVID vaccine made by CanSino Biologics. It is unknown how many people have received the inhaler booster so far.

“The previous COVID-19 vaccines made in China have been ineffective when compared to the Western vaccines. In fact, China has moved more in the direction of using the MRNA vaccines. Their zero COVID strategy has been a total failure, because of the ease of spread of the omicron variant,” Dr. Marc Siegel, Fox News medical contributor, told Fox News Digital.

Siegel added, “Now they have come up with the first nasal vaccine, which attacks SARS COV2 at the nasal or mucosal level. If effective, it could markedly diminish spread. But more likely, it will only be partially effective. All eyes are on Dr. Akiko Iwasaki at Yale, who is one of our top virologists and is currently studying a nasal barrier vaccine which induces antibodies on contact.”

A medical worker conducts COVID-19 tests for residents on April 10, 2022, in Shanghai, China.

A medical worker conducts COVID-19 tests for residents on April 10, 2022, in Shanghai, China.
(AP Photo/Chen Si, File)

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The new inhaler booster comes at the right time for Shanghai. Official statistics show that more than 23 million of the 24.9 million residents of Shanghai are currently fully vaccinated. About half of the 23 million people have received a booster shot. Nevertheless, Shanghai continues to struggle to keep the city COVID-19 free. On Tuesday, the city counted 36 confirmed cases, enough to label 18 parts of the city as “medium-risk areas.”

An area is labeled medium risk if a person infected with COVID, symptomatic or asymptomatic, lives, or passes through the area. All people living in that area will be required to stay within their own residential area, and, in most cases, are subjected to daily COVID tests. If no new infections are found in the relevant area for seven consecutive days, the area will be declared low-risk.

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A worker sprays disinfectant around the shuttered Huaqiangbei Electronics Market following the coronavirus outbreak in Shenzhen in south China's Guangdong province on Sept.  3, 2022.

A worker sprays disinfectant around the shuttered Huaqiangbei Electronics Market following the coronavirus outbreak in Shenzhen in south China’s Guangdong province on Sept. 3, 2022.
(Chinatopix Via AP)

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Earlier this month The Associated Press reported that outbreaks have been reported across the country, with the largest number occurring in Inner Mongolia and in the Xinjiang region where both, it said, had recorded several hundred cases daily.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.