If needles send a chill down your spine, there could be some good news ahead.
This year, Australian researchers will commence adult trials to deliver vaccines through a tiny skin patch known as the “Nanopatch.”
British researchers are working on a sugar pill delivery method utilising vaccines dried in sugar that are shaped into a tiny disc and then covered in micro-needles of sugar that dissolve when inserted into the skin.
A needle-free version of the flu vaccine, Afluria, manufactured by PharmaJet, went on sale in the US last year.
To deliver Afluria, doctors use a special injector designed to deliver the vaccine via high-pressure inoculation, which punches the skin with a concentrated spray.
PharmaJet partnered with Australian vaccine company, CSL, to develop its needle-free vaccine. However the local vaccine manufacturer reported the needle-free technology would not be used in Australia.
Speaking with News Corp, a CSL spokeswoman said, “We don’t use the multidose vials in Australia, so at this stage, it is not available here.”
CSL is however reportedly exploring other delivery technologies with potential Australian collaborators.
The Nanopatch, developed by University of Queensland bioengineer, Professor Mark Kendall, activates key immune cells situated below the skin to generate immunity.
According to Kendall, “The result is more efficient, pain-free medicine and significantly cheaper than syringe-delivered counterparts, as the patches do not need to be refrigerated.”
Director of immunisation adverse effects reporting service SAEFVIC and Head of Paediatric Infectious Diseases at Monash Children’s Hospital, Dr Jim Buttery says people frequently over-state the risk of immunisation.
Mr Buttery cites the most common adverse affects of immunisation –redness, swelling or fever, occur in five-to-10 per cent of people with almost a “zero chance of death and a one-in-a-million risk of severe allergic reaction.”
Supporting Mr Buttery’s claims, Australian Childhood Immunisation Register figures reveal 92 per cent of five year olds are fully immunised. In 2005, only 74 per cent of five year olds were immunised. However recent figures suggest immunisation rates are declining.
According to Associate Professor, Jodie McVernon, from the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health, vaccination is the most effective thing communities can do to prevent infectious disease.
“Parents need to vaccinate their children to prevent infectious diseases and become aware the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks.”
If the Nanopatch trials are successful, the needle-free vaccines could be available to the public within the next five years.