The end of painful vaccination jabs is on the horizon after scientists proved that a skin patch is just as effective at inoculating patients and can be applied at home in just a few minutes.
The painless plaster, which contains tiny microscopic needles, could significantly improve the annual take-up for annual vaccinations, such as the flu jab, researchers believe.
In Britain the NHS recommends that vulnerable adults and children, the elderly, and pregnant women are vaccinated each year, but fewer than 50 per cent of pregnant women and only 70 per cent of older people received the jab last winter. Many people are scared of needles or do not have the time to visit a doctor or nurse.
In the first human trial of the patch, involving 100 people, the patch was found to be just as effective as generating immunity for 12 months, and was preferred by the vast majority of those taking part.
Researchers say the patch is cheaper and could be mailed out so that people could vaccinate themselves in the comfort of their own homes. They are also developing patches for the measles, rubella and polio vaccine.
“Traditionally, if you get an influenza vaccine you need to visit a health care professional who will administer the vaccine using a hypodermic needle,” said Dr Mark Prausnitz, Georgia Tech Regents professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.
“The patches can also be stored outside the refrigerator, so you could even mail them to people.”
The results of the trial showed that there were no serious side effects with the patch, and local skin reactions were mostly faint redness and mild itching that lasted two to three days.
Antibody responses generated by the vaccine, as measured through analysis of blood samples, were similar to groups who were given the traditional jab.
After vaccination, imaging of the used patches found that the microneedles had dissolved in the skin, suggesting that the used patches could be safely discarded without the need for specialist waste disposal needed with needles.
More than 70 percent of patch recipients said they would prefer patch vaccination over injection. Researchers are now moving to phase II trials and if successful the patch could be available in just a few years.
“Having the option of a flu vaccine that can be easily and painlessly self-administered could increase coverage and protection by this important vaccine.”
“People have a lot of reasons for not getting flu vaccinations,” said Dr Mark Prausnitz, Georgia Tech Regents professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.
“One of the main goals of developing the microneedle patch technology was to make vaccines accessible to more people.”
Source: The Lancet.