The patches contain hundreds of tiny little needles, so small you don’t even feel them, that dissolve into the skin and release the vaccine. The result – simplified immunization programs. By eliminating the use of needles and syringes, three of the biggest problems simply disappear.
- fear of needles
- disposal of leftover needles and syringes
- the need for trained medical personnel
The microneedle patches are applied like a BandAid and could allow self-administration of vaccine during pandemics as well as in schools and assisted-living facilities. They could also simplify large-scale immunization programs in developing nations.
The business side of the patch apparently feels like fine sandpaper. In tests, people rated the discomfort at 1/10th – 1/20th that of getting a standard injection. In other words, nearly everyone said it was painless.
The patch, which has been tested on mice, was developed in collaboration by researchers at Georgia Tech and Emory University. The work was supported by the National Institute of Health. The researchers are now seeking funds to begin tests in people and, if all goes well, the patch could be in use in five years.
Flu vaccination is recommended for nearly everyone, every year. According to Prausnitz, “Many people don’t get the shot because it’s inconvenient, but if they could get it in the mail or at the pharmacy they might do so.” The patch is placed on the skin and left for 5 to 15 minutes although it can remain longer without doing any damage.
Asked if the term “microneedle” might still frighten some folks averse to shots, Prausnitz said he was confident that marketers would come up with a better term before any sales began.
SRxA’s Word on Health challenges you to come up with some creative ideas.