New flu vaccine replaces needles with patches

Mar 4 2014, 2:28am CST | by , in News | Other Stuff

New flu vaccine replaces needles with patches
Image Credit: Georgia Tech / Gary Mee

Afraid of needles? Not anymore. Researchers are now working on flu vaccine patches that can be self-applied at homes.

Millions of Americans will visit their doctor this year to get flu shots. Flu viruses are constantly evolving, making it all the more important for us to get those flu vaccinations.

But studies have shown that only half of the U.S. population are getting the immunization each year. One of the major hindrances is the painful sting of the needle. That is why a group of researchers are working on a new flu vaccine that uses microneedles - 50 microscopic needles that are as tall as the thickness of a hair.

According to Mark R. Prausnitz, a professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the patches  can be pressed painlessly into a person's arm.

“We found that everyone was capable of administering a microneedle patch appropriately, though not everyone did on the first try,” Prausnitz said.

Georgia Tech researchers and scientists from Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested the new method on 100 participants in Atlanta. They found out that the percentage of test subjects who said they wanted to be vaccinated grew from 46 percent to 65 percent.

The study, which has been published in the journal "Vaccine," also showed that using vaccine patches will increase the rate at which the population is vaccinated against influenza. It will also lessen the costs, since it can be self-applied at home.

Professor Prausnitz says that the dream is to create flu vaccine patches each year that can be sold in stores or send to homes by mail.  

“People could take them home and apply them to the whole family. We want to get more people vaccinated, and we want to relieve health care professionals from the burden of giving these millions of vaccinations,” he added. 

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