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Since the pandemic’s onset, researchers in Australia doubled down efforts to deliver painless life-saving drugs that could revolutionize medicine. They developed a novel option to a traditional injection, a needle-free COVID-19 vaccine patch.
The needle-free COVID-19 vaccine is a technique that could help children and people with syringes phobia. Beyond that, COVID-19 vaccine skin patches do not require cold-chain, thus heightening vaccine efficacy.
A new study published in the Science Advances journal showed promising results. An Australian-US team used patches measuring one square centimeter and dotted with 5,000 microscopic spikes and the tips coated with a vaccine. The patch is attached to an applicator resembling a hockey puck.
Mice were either injected through the patch in the course of two minutes or with a syringe. After two doses, the recipient produced high levels of neutralizing antibodies in their lungs which is crucial to stopping COVID-19. Results show the patches performed better than syringes.
Additionally, researchers found that a sub-group of mice with one dose of vaccine with an adjuvant, an additional substance to spur immune response, did not get sick at all.
Researchers noted that human trials will start in April 2022.
COVID-19 Vaccine Patch Advantages and Effectiveness
COVID-19 vaccines are typically injected into muscle tissue where only a few immune cells are present to react to the drug, according to David Muller, a virologist at the University of Queensland and co-author of Science Advances journal.
A “high-density microarray patch” with its tiny spikes cause localized skin death, which alerts the body to a problem and prompts a substantial immune response.
The first advantage is shelf life. When the vaccine is dry-coated on a patch, it remains stable at 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) for 30 days or only one week at 40C (104F). On the other hand, Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines stay viable for only a few hours at room temperature.
Another benefit is the patch’s administration. There is no need for a highly trained medical professional because it is easy to use, said Muller. Yet another advantage is that a lower “amount of vaccine delivered precisely to skin can activate an immune response similar to intramuscular injection.”
Burak Ozdoganlar has been working on this vaccine patch technology since 2007. Ozdoganlar, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, was not authorized by Moderna or Pfizer to test mRNA vaccines, but he can produce 300-400 patches a day in his laboratory.
The Future of Needle-Free Vaccine
The COVID-19 vaccine patch used in the study was made by Vaxxas Australia.
Micron Biomedical and Vaxess Massachusetts, founded in 2013, are working on patches with microneedles that dissolve in the skin. They said this approach only requires 121 spikes per patch made of biocompatible protein polymer. The vaccine patch is authorized for emergency use in Taiwan and produced by Medigen. CEO Michael Schrader told AFP:
“We’re working on a seasonal Covid and flu combination product that will be mailed directly to patients’ homes, for self-administration.”
Vaxess recently opened a factory near Boston. Using funding from the U.S. National Institutes for Health, they plan to produce 2,000 to 3,000 patches for people in clinical trials next summer.
Their main challenge now is to mass-produce the vaccine patch. “If you want to launch a vaccine you have to produce hundreds of millions,” said Schrader. “We do not have that scale as of today — no one really has that scale.” However, since the pandemic is attracting more investors, they are optimistic.
Researchers believe that this vaccine patch technology will reshape the way people around the world will get vaccines.
Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
NDTV: Needle-Free Covid Vaccine Patches Coming Soon, Say Researchers
ABC News Australia: Australian biotech firm Vaxxas set for clinical trials of needle-free vaccine patches; by Antonia O’Flaherty
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