Vaccines are about to come as little patches, so get ready to have them arrive in your mailbox. Nothing about this sounds good for the environment, either.
It’s being called a “microneedle patch.” It sounds much like how a band-aid would be described. It can arrive in the mail. And it’s a vaccine.
Scientists are now claiming that they are less than 5 years away from creating patch-type vaccines that a person would simply stick on their skin and within minutes, “be vaccinated” to things such as the flu.
Scientists have begun learning how they can penetrate the skin without the use of a needle. Absorption of vaccines through the skin, however, is a complicated business.
According to Smithsonian Magazine.
“The reason why skin doesn’t absorb drugs well is that there’s a very thin layer of the skin called the stratum corneum, only 10 or 20 microns thick,” says Mark Prausnitz, a chemical engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology who helped lead the research. “If you can get across that barrier, you’re basically in the body.”
What’s being determined now is that it is possible that a “long needle” isn’t needed for penetration. The microneedles are both vaccine and a water-soluble polymer. According to the scientists, the patient wouldn’t feel hardly anything at all. Once the person has applied the vaccine microneedle for a few moments, they can just throw it away.
I can’t see any issues here with hazardous disposal. It would seem to me vaccine chemicals would begin floating around in our sewage and water systems, lakes and oceans. This sounds as if it would be similar in scope to how antibiotic resistance has set foot in our world.
But, science remains super happy over this endeavor because it could eliminate the issue of refrigeration which tends to ruin a great many vaccines worldwide.
“Because it can be self-administered, and because it’s temperature stable, you have this great increase in accessibility to lifesaving vaccines,” says Roderic Pettigrew, the Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funded the study. “And all that without pain.”
The project is being funded by Quantum Grants.
Here is there summary over the project:
Influenza is a major cause of illness and death worldwide. Although vaccines are an effective strategy for preventing infection, the ease of access to influenza vaccination programs and vaccine efficacy could be improved. Lack of access is particularly pronounced for those in medically underserved areas.
Investigators from the Georgia Institute of Technology are leading an effort to develop a microneedle influenza vaccine patch that patients could potentially self-administer. This low-cost and single-use patch is designed to be applied easily, quickly, and painlessly. The multi-disciplinary research team is designing the system for improved vaccine effect by targeting immune cells in the skin. In addition, the patch will not require refrigeration or special disposal methods that are currently required for traditional needles.
Being able to push out vaccines in the easiest and simplest of ways will hugely drive up pharmaceutical company profits. Just averting the fear of needles alone has to be a huge pharma obstacle overcome.