Many children and adults alike have a deep fear of needles. Others may not have a phobia regarding needles; however, they are reluctant to get a shot because, let’s face it, they are painful.
Scientists are working on technology that would help to make vaccinations as easy as putting on a Band-Aid. Technology is currently being tested which would make for smaller needles and other non-invasive measures in order to make vaccinations easier.
Some of those technologies include needles less than a millimeter long and needle-free injectors. These injectors can send the vaccine through the skin in under one second.
Georgia Tech’s Laboratory for Drug Delivery is developing a flu vaccine patch. A study published in The Lancet in June 2017 shows positive results in the patch’s first human clinical trial.
The patch, which resembles a square bandage, is equipped with small dissolvable needles that are filled with a pre-determined dose of the flu vaccine. The patch is placed on the arm, and pressure activates the patch. As the needles dissolve, the vaccine is released into the body.
The study was conducted using 100 participants; those involved received either a vaccine patch, a traditional flu shot, or a placebo patch. Interestingly, after six months, no one in the study had come down with the flu. Other than the microneedle patch participants complaining with some redness, tenderness or itching at the site of the patch, there were no major side effects. Scientists said that those who used the vaccine patch had much the same response as those who had the flu shot.
Approximately seven out of every ten participants preferred the patch to the traditional shot, according to Yasmine Gomaa, associate director of the Georgia Tech lab.
Scientists are excited about the use of a vaccine patch. For one thing, patches could be used in developing countries that may not have electricity because the patch does not require refrigeration the way some traditional vaccines do. In fact, the vaccine patch can tolerate temperatures of up to 104 degrees for up to a year.
Another reason the patch vaccine would be a boon for developing countries is the fact that anyone can administer the patch vaccine. Often, people in the study actually applied the patch themselves.
Georgia Tech is also working in conjunction with pharmaceutical giant Micron Biomedical to develop a patch vaccine for polio. In 2015, they won a $2.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to do just that.
The hope of the scientists involved is that patch vaccines will not only be easier to administer and to receive, but also be cheaper than traditional vaccines.
After a 2016 study performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cost analysis showed that a patch containing the measles vaccine would cost $1 when factoring in cooling costs. The traditional measles vaccine costs $1.65.
Another mode of vaccine delivery is also being tested. A needle-free device that is also known as a “jet injector” has actually been around for over fifty years; now Portal Instruments is working to further develop the jet injector as a vaccination method.
MIT’s Ian Hunter decided to modify the jet injector by removing the needles altogether. Needle-free injection would have the same amount of pain as a mosquito bite.
This is a great improvement on the jet injector’s of the past. Patients using that method of vaccination injection have complained of “feeling like being punched.” Also, multiple patients were forced to use the same injection device, which led to possible bloodbourne pathogen exposure.
Scientists are currently working to improve cost-effectiveness.