Health News

Flu Vaccine Can Now Be Given In Painless Patch Form

Photo from Georgia Tech

There’s good news for people who are scared of needles – the flu vaccine can now be administered via an ingenious method: a patch.

The “painless” plaster patch has hundreds of miniscule hair-like microneedles on the adhesive side. These penetrate the skin’s surface to deliver the vaccine, the BBC reports. People can simply stick the patch onto themselves.

The patch has passed safety tests in its first round of human trials, and volunteers said they preferred this method to injections. The researchers behind the patch say this device could help get more people immunized, including those who have a fear of needle injections.

Unlike normal flu shots, this one doesn’t have to be kept in the refrigerator, making it easier for pharmacies to stock it.

Developers from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, funded by the US National Institutes of Health, said that this patch offers the same protection as a regular vaccine. The only difference is that the patch punctures the uppermost layers of the skin alone, while the injection goes through muscle.

Mark Prausnitz, lead researcher, said,

If you zoom in under the microscope what you’ll see are microscopically small needles. They puncture painlessly into the skin.

Prausnitz and his team tested the patch with flu injections. A hundred volunteers either got the shot in their arm, or applied the patch to their wrists for 20 minutes.

While most of the volunteers said the process was painless, a few experienced mild side effects like itching, redness and skin tenderness on the area where the patch was applied, which went away after a few days.

The patch can be discarded after use, because the microneedles dissolve. It can also be safely stored for up to a year, which would be very useful in developing countries.

Other researchers have also been looking into painless vaccination, such as a flu shot syringe with a microneedle that has already been approved in the US, or a nasal spray flu vaccine available in the UK.

The study was published in The Lancet.

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