No more needles: flu vaccines to come in patches

Credit: Georgia Tech

Every year, the flu kills thousands of Americans, and puts over 100,000 in hospitals. The best way to combat it is with an annual flu shot, administered via hypodermic needle (ouch) by a medical professional. But what would happen if vaccinations were simpler? What if there was a patch you could apply at home that would do exactly the same thing as those painful shots? A recent study done by Georgia Tech researchers suggests that not only would using a patch be more cost-effective and easier for everyone involved, but that more people would receive vaccinations if a patch were available.

The flu patch consists of a small patch with 50 microneedles that are only about the width of a hair. Because the needles are so tiny, they’re virtually painless. The patch is pressed against the forearm, where the microneedles break the outer layer of the skin and deliver the vaccine there so the body can create an immune reaction against the virus. In tests, volunteers were given patches without the vaccine to see how easy its application might be. The microneedles left dye marks on the punctured skin to mark how effectively each patch was applied. The end result was that most volunteers had no problem effectively applying the patch, especially when using one that made a clicking noise when pressed forcefully enough.

The volunteers were then asked if they would be receiving the flu vaccination this year and if their opinion would change if they could use the patch. Although only 46 percent planned to be vaccinated, that number jumped to 65 percent when the patch became an option.

A flu vaccination patch takes all the things out of the flu vaccination process that turns people away: namely, pain and time spent waiting in doctor’s offices. It's also cost-effective for the health industry, because it keeps people out of doctor’s offices and frees up time to tend to other patients. And if more people get vaccinated every year, the flu virus will spread less overall. Phase 1 clinical trials on the patch are to begin next year and if all goes well, the patches will be available to the public in about five years.

Via Georgia Tech

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