Researchers have announced promising results of a phase 1 clinical trial of a painless needle-free flu vaccine patch vs. a normal flu shot.
The patch is around the size of a postage stamp, with 100 “micro-needles” on a Band Aid-like patch that goes on a patient’s wrist. The tiny needles deliver the vaccine and dissolve in a few minutes.
According to a researcher who explained how the flu patch works:
“There is an audible snap that you hear when you apply enough pressure to ensure that the microneedles will actually penetrate the skin. … After few minutes, we remove the patch. By then, those microneedles will be completely dissolved within the skin, along with the vaccine.”
The clinical trial included 100 people in the U.S. and studied the risk of side effects and the effectiveness of the flu patch versus an injection.
Patients who received the flu patch were less likely to report pain, but more likely to report redness and itching where the patch was applied.
The study was too small to determine if the flu patch was equally effective as a traditional flu shot. Larger studies will be necessary, but preliminary data suggests that the patch produced a similar response in terms of flu antibodies produced by the patient’s immune system.
Another benefit of the flu patch is that it does not require refrigeration, which theoretically means it could be sent in the mail or delivered to countries where access to electrical refrigeration is not very reliable.
Even if larger clinical trials confirm that the flu vaccine patch works and is safe, it will likely be several years before it is in routine use.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published in The Lancet by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University.