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Patch up your inoculations

July 2017

Flu patch Picture from Georgia Institute of Technology
Picture from Georgia Institute of Technology

No one likes having injections…needles look frightening, they can hurt and there can be risk of infections and other problems.

In a few years the mere idea of jabbing the skin and body with sharp needles may seem primitive indeed as scientists look at improved ways of introducing drugs into the body.

A lot of work has been done in recent years on patches in various forms. Patches are simply placed on the skin and contain a mass of tiny micro needles which penetrate the skin’s surface without touching the nerves or going through to the muscle.

They can be virtually painless and have the ability to deliver drugs efficiently and work has been done to develop patches for measles, rubella and polio vaccinations.

The latest development appears to be a sticking plaster patch that will deliver our annual flu jab for us.

This innovation is the result of research at the Hope Clinic at the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta undertaken in collaboration with researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology. The scientists wanted to check the results from using a patch rather than traditional needles, but also to check whether these patches could be self-administered instead of put on by a healthcare professional. 

The patch was tested on 100 people and it was found that the immunity generated from the patch was just as effective as that from a traditional injection. 

Many people hate having a flu jab and it is thought many don’t take advantage of the flu vaccination because of their fear of needles and the pain.

A pain free and simple way to administer the flu jab will make everything much easier. The new flu patch has a hundred tiny hair like microneedles on an adhesive base, so you simply stick it onto the skin. The vaccination is delivered in just a few minutes making it a very quick and easy process.

The patch can then simply be thrown away as the microneedles dissolve themselves. Even better, the patch can be stored for up to a year without refrigeration. Add to that the fact that the patches can be self administrated, and this new system could be really beneficial for developing areas as well as ourselves.

The only downside so far is that a few of the people in the test experienced some mild side effects including redness, tenderness and irritation of the skin area where the patch had been applied; but they symptoms disappeared quickly over a few days.

While the NHS recommends that older people should have the flu vaccination every year, last year it is estimated that only 70 per cent took it up. Problems finding the time to visit the doctor, or fear of needles were some of the reasons put forward for the people that did not take up the free vaccination.

Once the new flu patch becomes fully available, it is hoped that it will encourage more people to take up the annual flu vaccination.
There is an interesting video on this here.


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