Each year my wife and I trek over to our local pharmacy to get our flu shots before the winter season hits. I’m not needle-adverse, but it’s not a thrilling experience. I would rather have an alternate method of delivery for this annual vaccine. There was a nasal spray flu vaccine introduced in the recent past, but that has proven to be less effective against certain strains of influenza.
I’ve blogged before about various vaccines being tested for administration via a disposable patch, but imagine my delight when I read an article the other day about a flu vaccine administered via a sticker patch. Fantasy you say? Not so, say the experts!
A small clinical trial that involved a hundred volunteers showed that this vaccine patch successfully immunized the users against the flu. It was relatively painless compared to a shot and produced few side effects.
This new, revolutionary technology involves a skin patch with a hundred, tiny hair-like microneedles impregnated with the vaccine attached to the adhesive side of a skin patch. Regular vaccine injections go all the way through the muscle, but the hair-like microneedles with the vaccine material only puncture into the upper layer of skin. The vaccine dose is delivered in about 20 minutes and the microneedles dissolve away.
So, alongside do-it-yourself, at-home diagnostic tests, we now can add a do-it-yourself, at-home flu vaccine dosing. Its application is as simple as putting on a sticker patch for less than a half hour, peeling it off after that and throwing it into the trash.
I could imagine the whole process of flu shots being replaced by a vaccine ordered by my doctor, having it automatically sent to my home each year (since this new delivery system requires no prior refrigeration) and me administering the dose myself.
The implications for this new vaccine dosing are astounding. First, children might even look forward to a yearly super hero sticker that they could wear on their skin like a badge of honor and be immunized at the same time.
Additionally, the convenience of no refrigeration not only allows for mail order of this medication in developed countries, but it also facilitates use in third world countries where conventional vaccination is not an option due to lack of electricity and refrigeration.
When the patch gets approval for use in the next couple of years, administering flu or other vaccines could be as easy as putting on a Band-Aid.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!