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Microneedle patch 'is safe for flu vaccine'

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

28th June 2017 – If you miss out on the annual flu jab because of a fear of needles, a new innovation might one day change your outlook. Scientists say they have successfully trialled a painless microneedle patch that could safely be applied at home.

Don't expect them to be appearing in surgeries and pharmacies soon, though. The patches are still in phase I clinical trials. But a team led by Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology in the US say they have demonstrated that the patches are safe and people prefer them to the traditional syringe and needle.

Tiny dissolvable needles

At first glance the microneedle patch resembles a sticking plaster, at first glance. On closer examination, it contains an array of 100 microscopic needles.

When the plaster is applied to the wrist and pushed, these needles puncture the skin painlessly and dissolve. The needles contain the vaccine which is then released into the body over the course of several minutes.
Photo credit: The Lancet.
The microneedle patch contains an array of 100 microneedles mounted on an adhesive backing.
The microneedle patch is manually administered to the wrist, enabling self-administration by study participants.
Microneedles encapsulate influenza vaccine
After application to the skin, the microneedles dissolve, thereby depositing vaccine in the skin and leaving behind a patch backing that can be discarded as non-sharps waste.

The trial results, published in The Lancet, show that the microneedle patch could be safely self-administered, unlike the flu jab which needs to be given by a trained professional.

Unlike the traditional vaccine which needs to be stored in a fridge, the patch had a shelf-life of at least a year at a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius. The scientists say this could reduce delivery and storage costs and also eliminate the hazards of having to handle and dispose of sharp needles.

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