For any parent that has had to hold down their newborn baby or their 4-year-old child in order to get anywhere between four to six vaccinations during their yearly check up, the idea of a pain-free and needle-free vaccination is pretty appealing. Considering our children get approximately 50 doses of immunizations over the course of their life, a needle-free vaccination could save us all a great deal of heartache over our child’s pain and fear.
Needle-free vaccinations are not just an idea borrowed from Star Trek, but may be available to parents in the not-so-distant future. A joint research project involving Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology has developed a needle free vaccination method through the use of a patch. Sean Sullivan, lead study author, compares it in some ways to a Band-Aid with hundreds of micron scale sized (teeny tiny) needles sticking out of the sticky side. These needles dissolve into the skin, much like sutures do, and as they dissolve into the skin they would release the vaccination into the body. You simply place the patch on your skin and wait. The entire process takes between 30 seconds and 5 minutes. The total size of the patch? Thinner than a nickel!
How effective is this type of vaccination?
In this particular study, “three months after mice were vaccinated with micro needles, they appeared to have a better recall response to the virus and thus were able to clear the virus from their lungs more effectively than those that received vaccine with hypodermic needles.” The results showed that this immunization was just as effective as traditional hypodermic needles.
What are the benefits to needle-free vaccinations?
Other than the obvious, that vaccinations would be pain-free, there are several benefits to needle-free vaccinations.
“The dissolving micro needle patch could open up many new doors for immunization programs by eliminating the need for trained personnel to carry out the vaccination,” says Georgia Tech biomedical engineer Mark Prausnitz.
So it is possible that less personnel or personnel that do not require special training (like a nurse) could mean less charges for the administration of a vaccination, saving families money.
These benefits mean not only less spending, but could make it easier for families who choose to utilize an adjusted vaccination schedule to receive the immunizations their family needs.
A needle-free vaccination program could also be a “greener” alternative, eliminating much of the medical waste that is dumped into our eco-system. Again, a greener alternative to expensive waste disposal could mean lower overall costs for medical providers and their patients.
Another benefit, especially in developing countries, is the lower cost of transporting this type of vaccine since it can be stored at room temperature as well as lowering the re-use of many needles which leads to the spread of HIV and Hepatitis B.
In cases of pandemics a patch could mean quicker responses and even self administration of the virus. This could also lead to a better response to the vaccination, because it is administered faster.
At this time research is only being conducted on the flu vaccine, however, the research scientist believe that the patch could be used to eliminate many of the traditional needle vaccinations including the annual flu shot many elect to have administered.
There is more research to be done, before the needle-free vaccinations may be made available, but, once created they could become a very powerful health care tool, and one which many parents will be grateful for and children will not come to dread.
For more information on this topic visit
Vaccination and Immunization Advice for Parents from Pediatric Expert Dr. Robert Sears
Science News Magazine