Good news for needle-phobics out there: science has developed a needle-less flu vaccine patch and found them to be as effective as vaccines given by injection.
The dime-sized adhesive patch contains 100 microscopic water-soluble needles that are just long enough to penetrate the skin. The vaccine is encapsulated in the needles, which dissolve after a few minutes. Because the needles dissolve completely, it can be safely discarded as non-sharps waste. With further development, microneedle patches could eliminate the discomfort of getting vaccinated, as well as the inconvenience of travelling to a flu clinic.
“This bandage-strip sized patch of painless and dissolvable needles can transform how we get vaccinated," said Dr. Roderic I. Pettigrew, Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, which funded the study. "A particularly attractive feature is that this vaccination patch could be delivered in the mail and self-administered. In addition, this technology holds promise for delivering other vaccines in the future."
The research team from Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University School of Medicine divided 100 adult participants into four random groups for the study. Two groups were given the flu vaccine by microneedle patch, either administered by a health care provider, or self-administered. The remaining two groups were given the vaccine by intramuscular injection or they received a placebo microneedle patch. Of the participants who received the patch, more than 70 percent said they would prefer it over injection in the future.
The study, which was published last month in The Lancet, found that immune response was similar in the groups receiving patches and those receiving injections, and was still present after six months. No serious related adverse events were reported aside from some minor localized skin irritations. Also, no significant difference was seen between the participants who self-administered the patch and those who were given the patch by a healthcare provider.
The vaccine remains potent in the patches for at least a year and doesn’t require refrigeration. The patch's shelf-life combined with these positive results on efficacy, make this technology an ideal future prospect for administering your own flu vaccines in the comfort of your home.
Here's how it works.