Getting an annual flu vaccination is one of the best ways to fight the cold and flu season, but let’s be honest here: there are plenty of adults who still won’t get optional vaccines because they can’t handle the sight of a needle.
The latest invention in vaccinations — the microneedle patch — may be able to change that.
According to Tech Times and UPI, researchers at Osaka University have developed patches with microneedles that dissolve when placed on the skin, allowing the vaccine to enter a patient’s system through the skin — without a painful injection into a muscle.
The microneedles are made of hyaluronic acid, which is naturally found in the human body to cushion joints. The material dissolves in water, so it can actually dissolve after “administering” the vaccine from the moisture naturally found in human skin.
At its lowest levels, it’s common for the influenza virus to infect 5% of the U.S. population; most of these patients are able to recover from it, and if a person has received a flu vaccine that year, he/she is less likely to experience severe complications.
But on the global scale, even the common stomach bug is typically considered an epidemic. According to the World Health Organization, it’s estimated that anywhere between two and three million deaths occur as a result of influenza. The majority of these deaths occur in developing nations, where it’s difficult to transport supplies and find someone capable of administering the shots.
According to Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, researchers hope that this patch will allow more vaccines to be administered, especially in third-world countries where supplies are scarce.
With the microneedle patch, the vaccine will be safer to hand out and it won’t require a trained technician.
Tech Times reported that microneedle patches have been tested out before, but because these patches were made of metal or silicon microneedles, the tiny needles were susceptible to breaking off upon piercing the outermost layer of skin. Hyaluronic acid, however, is safe and effective.
“We have shown that the patch is safe and that it works well,” said Dr. Shinsaku Nakagawa, a professor at Osaka University. “Since it is also painless and very easy for non-trained people to use, we think it could bring about a major change in the way we administer vaccines globally.”