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India approves world's first needle-free, DNA-based COVID-19 vaccine

The Drug Controller-General of India (DCGI) has granted emergency use approval to pharmaceutical company Zydus Cadila's needle-free vaccine, ZyCoV-D, the world’s first ever DNA- based vaccine against the SARs-COV-2 virus.

According to Times of India, early last month, the Ahmedabad-based pharma-giant had sought permission from the government, stating that it had conducted the largest clinical trial for the vaccine in India. Currently, Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, Oxford-Astrazeneca's Covishield, Russia-made Sputnik V, Moderna vaccine and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine have received an approval for the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), which makes ZyCoV-D the sixth COVID vaccine to be approved in India.

While all the vaccines aim to combat the deadly coronavirus, the newly approved COVID vaccine has its own special features and may be different in many ways.

Times of India reports that the three-dose, needle-free vaccine is also the first vaccine to be approved in the country for teens between the ages of 12 and 18. The vaccine produces the spike protein from the coronavirus, which then elicits an immune response to combat the disease. ZyCoV-D is a 'plasmid DNA' vaccine, that uses a non-replicating version of a DNA molecule called plasmid, which helps prepare a harmless version of the spike protein present on the SARS-COV-2 membrane.

Also known as a third-generation vaccine, DNA-based vaccines use engineered DNA to induce an immune response against the virus.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), this "radical new approach" offers several advantages over traditional vaccines, which include "improved vaccine stability, the absence of any infectious agent and the relative ease of large-scale manufacture".

Zydus Cadila's vaccine is very different from other intramuscular vaccines available in and around the world. While all have been developed to fight the SARs-COV-2 virus, the mode of administration and the number of doses may differ, especially in respect to ZyCoV-D vaccine. Compared to other COVID vaccines being administered in India, ZyCOV-D is a three dose regimen, to be administered on day 0, day 28, and day 56. Reportedly, the company is also working on a two-dose vaccine.

In opposition to other COVID vaccines, notes Axios, it is a needle-free jab, which will use a ‘Jet Injector’ technique to administer the three doses. Instead of injecting the drug by piercing the skin with a needle, the vaccine will use high-pressure to inject the liquid directly through the upper layer of the skin and into the underlying tissues.

In the world of vaccine development, needle-free vaccines are not a new discovery. It is an old technique, first demonstrated in 1866, and was also used during the 1960s for smallpox vaccination drives.

With the help of needle-free vaccines, side effects like pain at the injection-site, swelling, rash and arm soreness can be avoided, which is very prevalent in intramuscular injections.

The vaccine is considered to be approximately 67% effective, Bloomberg reports.


Axios article – India approves world's first DNA-based COVID-19 vaccine (Open access)


Bloomberg article – India approves DNA-based COVID shot, boosting vaccine plan (Restricted access)


Times of India article – Zydus Cadila's needle-free COVID-19 vaccine approved in India, said to be safe for kids over 12; Here's everything you need to know (Open access)


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India pauses major COVID-19 vaccine exports until October


COVID-19 might have killed four million people in India – Harvard study


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