Vaccinations could be set for a revolution as proposals for a painless plaster to replace the flu jab get the attention of Public Heath England.
Proposed by Dr Nadine Rouphael and colleagues in the Lancet, such a patch would have hundreds of small, hair-like ‘microneedles’ to penetrate the skin.
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Writing in the journal, Dr Rouphael said the patch would promote wider vaccinations.
Public Health England (PHE) expressed enthusiasm for the development of a patch and were keen to see the technology tested and developed further.
PHE director of reference microbiology Dr Maria Zambon said: ‘This is good early research and we await more tests on these patches to see their effectiveness.
‘Microneedle patches have the potential to be used for vaccination programmes and could help people who are scared of needles.’
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Funded by the US National Institutes of Health, the patch does not need to be refrigerated, which would also prove advantageous to pharmacies and medical practices who would only need shelf space on which to store them.
Unlike regular flu injections which go all the way into the muscle, the tiny needles only puncture the upper layers of the skin. It could potentially make them easy enough for patients to apply themselves
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) concurred that the patch may help extend vaccination use if brought into mainstream use.
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RCN young person’s lead Fiona Smith said: ‘This innovation, following trials, may be extremely beneficial. It would help them to access the vaccine in a more effective way.’
The patch could prove especially useful in developing countries, due to the lack of a need for refrigeration and the fact that the microneedles dissolve, making disposal easy.