A DIY flu jab with­out nee­dles, on your wrist

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

LON­DON: A patch could re­place the an­nual flu jab, re­search sug­gests.

In fu­ture, the patches could be sent out in the post, en­abling peo­ple to quickly and eas­ily vac­ci­nate them­selves with­out hav­ing to queue at the GP’s surgery, ex­perts said. A trial of the patch by US sci­en­tists at Emory Univer­sity in At­lanta, Ge­or­gia, found it worked as well as a jab and was pre­ferred by pa­tients.

The study, in The Lancet med­i­cal jour­nal, also re­vealed it could be safely stored for a year with­out a fridge – mean­ing it could eas­ily be dis­trib­uted to pa­tients to ad­min­is­ter to them­selves. The de­vice, mea­sur­ing roughly 2.5cm in di­am­e­ter, con­tains the same vac­cine as is given in con­ven­tional flu in­jec­tions.

But it can be self-ad­min­is­tered by sim­ply plac­ing on the wrist for 20 min­utes and then re­moved. The patch con­tains 100 tiny “mi­cronee­dles” which pierce the top layer of the skin.

The nee­dles dis­solve while they are in the skin, mean­ing there is no dan­ger of pierc­ing a sec­ond pa­tient and pass­ing on blood-borne dis­eases – a ma­jor safety fear when peo­ple in­ject them­selves with­out pro­fes­sional su­per­vi­sion. Ex­perts say the de­vice could sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove up­take of flu vac­ci­na­tion.

The dis­ease kills 5 000 peo­ple in Eng­land each year, and most vic­tims are el­derly or suf­fer from ex­ist­ing res­pi­ra­tory con­di­tions. For this rea­son, the Na­tional Health Ser­vice en­cour­ages any­one over the age of 65 to have an an­nual flu jab.

Younger peo­ple who are con­sid­ered at risk – in­clud­ing preg­nant women, young chil­dren aged two, three and four, and any­one with asthma or other con­di­tions – are also of­fered the vac­cine.

How­ever, up­take of the jab is poor, and fall­ing. Only 71% of over-65s had the vac­cine in 2015/16, along with just 42% of preg­nant women, roughly a third of young chil­dren, and less than half of peo­ple with ex­ist­ing health con­di­tions.

Ex­perts said al­ter­na­tive ways of de­liv­er­ing the vac­cine might im­prove take-up – par­tic­u­larly among those afraid of nee­dles or too busy to go to the GP.

The patch was tested on 100 peo­ple who had cho­sen not to re­ceive the flu vac­cine. It was found that af­ter six months, no se­ri­ous side ef­fects linked to the vac­cine were re­ported and there were no cases of in­fluenza.

As well as this, par­tic­i­pants re­ported high “ac­cept­abil­ity” scores of be­tween 4.5 and 4.8 out of 5, with some 70% say­ing they pre­ferred it to the in­jec­tion.

Study leader Dr Na­dine Rouphael said: “De­spite the rec­om­men­da­tion for adults and chil­dren to re­ceive a flu shot, many peo­ple re­main un­vac­ci­nated.

“The patch could be safely ap­plied by par­tic­i­pants them­selves, mean­ing we could en­vis­age vac­ci­na­tion at home, in the work­place or even via mail dis­tri­bu­tion.

“These ad­van­tages could re­duce the cost of the flu vac­cine and po­ten­tially in­crease cov­er­age. Our find­ings now need con­firm­ing in larger tri­als.”

Ex­perts in Bri­tain wel­comed the study, say­ing the patches could be par­tic­u­larly use­ful for chil­dren.

Dr Maria Zam­bon, di­rec­tor of ref­er­ence mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy at Public Health Eng­land, said: “This is a 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 those scared of nee­dles.”

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