Good news may be on the horizon for those who shy way from vaccinations due to a fear of needles. Researchers are currently working to make an influenza vaccine patch a reality. Their vision includes the hope that the patch would be marketed as a product that could be self-administered, thus eliminating the need to see a doctor or other medical professional and reducing the potential expense of vaccination as well.
An initial study of the patch, which is covered with about 50 barely perceptible needles to penetrate the skin, was conducted to see how well the 91 participants administered and tolerated the influenza vaccine administered in this manner. The researchers reported that most of the volunteers were able to administer the vaccine effectively enough to be able to use it on their own, and that when a patch was used that included a clicking applicator, the number of people effectively completing the task was even higher.
As a part of the study, participants were also given an injection of saline in order to compare how they rated the pain of both vaccination methods. Study participants by and large reported that the patch was much less painful than the injection, rating it just a 1.5 on a pain scale of one to 100, as compared to a rating of 15 on the same scale for the shot. 76 percent of the study participants said that they would prefer to receive their influenza vaccine via the patch rather than a traditional injection, and 64 percent said that they would prefer to utilize the option of applying the patch themselves rather than having to consult with a doctor or other medical professional. Overall, 46 percent said that they would get a flu shot, while 65 percent said that they would use the influenza vaccine patch should it become a reality.
The patches used in the study did not contain actual vaccine, they were used merely to test the effectiveness of the design of the potential delivery method. The next step for the research team is to test the patches containing actual vaccine. Some preliminary research suggests that the patch may be an even more effective delivery system for the vaccine than traditional injections. This may be because the vaccine is delivered via the skin and the skin is known to contain a large number of immune cells.
Currently, less than half of all Americans get vaccinated against the flu each year, even in the face of strong recommendations by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and near-epidemic levels of the potentially deadly disease. The researchers hope that the decreased cost and increased convenience that would be associated with a vaccine delivering patch could improve those numbers. In particular, it is hoped that the patch might make the vaccination process easier for children and families. Researchers say that the patch vaccine could be available as soon as within the next five years.
The team of researchers working on making the influenza vaccine patch a reality is not the only group to be taking vaccines in a new direction. Other non-injection vaccines have already been developed, including the FluMist nasal spray influenza vaccine that has already been widely distributed in some areas.
By Michele Wessel