India's drug regulator has approved what a local vaccine innovator calls the "world's first" intranasal COVID-19 vaccine, restricted for use in emergency situations for those aged 18 years and above.

The approval of Bharat Biotech International Ltd.'s iNCOVACC vaccine on Tuesday came two days after China authorized use of an inhalable coronavirus vaccine, another needle-free option.

The Hyderabad-based company, in a statement, said the vaccine with the nasal delivery system has been designed to be cost effective in low- and middle-income countries with limited medical facilities and staff.

Indian Minister of Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya. (Hindustan Times/Getty/Kyodo)

Drug makers in several countries, including Japan's Shionogi & Co., are developing nasal vaccines for coronavirus.

Bharat Biotech collaborated with Washington University in St. Louis in developing the iNCOVACC vaccine.

Indian Minister of Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya on Tuesday said in a Twitter post that the vaccine has brought a "big boost" to India's fight against the virus.

India witnessed a devastating surge in coronavirus cases in 2021, with the death toll in the year surpassing 200,000, according to the health ministry.

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