5 Benefits: Developments in Injection Free Vaccinations

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"Injection-free vaccination technique could address global vaccine challenge for diseases such as HIV and malaria"- http://www.kcl.ac.uk/newsevents/news/newsrecords/2013/02-Feb/Injection-free-vaccination-technique.aspx

One of the many challenges facing the vaccine industry concerns the need to transport and store live vaccines in a continuously cold environment. This is particularly difficult in countries without the necessary infrastructure, arguably where vaccines are needed most. The growing incidences of HIV, malaria and TB (despite the existence of the BCG vaccines) is an example of this. Despite promising research to produce vaccines for these diseases, the need for cold storage and transport options remains a obstacle.

Scientists at King's College London, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have demonstrated the ability to deliver a dried live vaccine to the skin without a traditional needle, and shown for the first time that this technique is powerful enough to enable specialised immune cells in the skin to kick-start the immunising properties of the vaccine. Researchers say although it is an early study, the potential that this advance offers  to the challenges of delivering live vaccines in resource-limited countries globally, is significant. A cheaper alternative to hypodermic needles, it would also remove safety risks from needle contamination and the pain-free administration could lead to more people taking up a vaccination. The researchers add that it could have an impact beyond infectious disease vaccination programmes, for example managing autoimmune and inflammatory conditions such as diabetes.

The basis of this technology is a microneedle array, disc-shaped and the size of a contact lens. Made from a type of sugar combined with a biodegradable polymer, this technology allows the microneedles to penetrate the skin with the application of light pressure to the disc and after 5 minutes the needles dissolve, releasing the vaccine. The rest is left up to the specialised immune cells in the body.

What are the benefits of this technology over conventional injections?

  • Dried live vaccine within the microneedles remain stable and effective at room temperature
  • Overcoming issues concerning vaccine delivery
  • Vaccine could be self-administered
  • As the needle simply dissolves, the technology also overcomes the concerns over safe disposal
  • Potential for more of the public to be open to vaccination- a potentially painless alternative to hypodermic needles

The hope for this technology is that the combination of successful results from the next stage of testing (human clinical trials) and the economic advantages, the technology will be on the market soon.

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