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Research Horizons

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Vaccinate Yourself

Visiting your doctor’s office each year to receive a flu shot may soon be outdated, thanks to the findings of a study published in the journal Vaccine.

The study, which involved nearly 100 people, found that test subjects could successfully apply a prototype vaccine patch to themselves. That suggests the self-administration of vaccines with microneedle patches may one day be feasible, potentially reducing administration costs and relieving an annual burden on health care providers.

The study also suggested that the use of vaccine patches might increase the rate at which the population is vaccinated against influenza. After comparing simulated vaccine administration using a patch against the conventional injection, researchers found that the percentage of test subjects who said they’d be vaccinated grew from 46 percent to 65 percent.

“Our dream is that each year there would be flu vaccine patches available in stores or sent by mail for people to self-administer,” said Mark Prausnitz, a Regents Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering. “People could take them home and apply them to the whole family.”

In addition to Georgia Tech researchers, the project included scientists from Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research into the use of microneedle patches for influenza vaccination has been supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The study is believed to be the first published report of a head-to-head comparison between microneedle patches and traditional intramuscular injection for the administration of vaccines in humans. The patches consisted of arrays of 50 microscopic needles. The patches would be pressed painlessly onto a person’s forearm to carry the vaccine into the outer layers of skin, where it would prompt an immune reaction from the body.

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John Toon

John Toon

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