For some, it’s just another thing on the to-do list…
For others, though, it’s a fear-inducing, sweat-producing ordeal that brings dread.
I’m talking about a trip to the doctor for vaccinations.
Whether it’s a flu shot, children getting their first set of jabs, or travelers getting vaccinated against diseases before a trip, it’s an essential part of life – albeit an often unpleasant one.
Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that a hefty 20% of adults avoid getting annual flu shots, due a fear of needles.
However, researchers at Georgia Tech are developing a far more appealing way for people to get their jabs…
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Forget sharp, ominous-looking needles and syringes being plunged into your skin. Vaccinations are set to get easier and pain-free.
The secret? A new patch that’s the epitome of smart, new-age technology.
You see, the patch does have needles… but you’d never know. It contains hundreds of microscopic needles, each charged with a dose of the relevant vaccination. They gently pierce the outer layer of skin, and then dissolve into the skin, administering the dosage painlessly.
It’s the brainchild of Georgia Tech’s Professor Mark Prausnitz and his team of chemical and bio-molecular engineers at the institute.
He explains how they’re able to do it: “We have a solid needle structure, which is made up of the drug. We add some sugars, polymers and various materials to stabilize the drug so it doesn’t get damaged. This also gives mechanical strength to the micro-needle, so that when you press it into the skin, you don’t have the needle bend, or break, or have problems.”
In fact, he says that based on trials with mice getting flu shots, the micro-needles aren’t just less painful than conventional shots… they’re also more effective at administering the medicine.
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Ultimately, Prausnitz and his team want to develop the patch to the point where “we’d like people to self-administer that flu vaccine.”
Yep… that’s just as revolutionary as it sounds. No more lining up at the doctor’s office to get flu jabs every winter. Prausnitz says, “Stop by the grocery store or pharmacy, and bring home patches for the whole family, apply them to the skin, and you’ve taken care of your flu shot for the year.”
Sound fanciful? Not so much.
In fact, not only would this method be easier and less painful, Prausnitz says manufacturing costs for the patches are the same as traditional needles. More importantly, they save a substantial amount of money by taking doctors and visits to the clinic out of the equation – and halving the overall cost of vaccinations.
Phase I clinical trials on humans for the micro-needle patch are set for early 2015… and Prausnitz hopes to have it into commercial production in a few years.
Ahead of the tape,