It’s a little early to be thinking about getting a flu shot yet – and one day soon the process could be so simple you’ll hardly give it a thought. You’ll just pick up a flu “patch” at the pharmacy, press it onto your arm and peel away the backing. Hundreds of microscopic needles on the patch will dissolve into your skin, releasing influenza vaccine. You won’t feel a thing, and you won’t get the flu.
At least, that’s how it worked for the mice in a Georgia Institute of Technology/Emory University study reported this week in the journal Natural Medicine. Researchers testing the new technology found that it produced immunity just as well, or even a bit better, than traditional vaccination with a hypodermic needle.
The patches should cost about the same to produce as traditional needle-and-syringe delivery. Advantages, besides the no-ouch factor, include a longer shelf life, lower cost to administer (since you don’t need trained personnel to do it), and no dangerous leftover needles to dispose of. The technology could also work with vaccines against other diseases, but more studies are needed to make sure they are safe and effective in humans.