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Picture: supplied by Vaxxas

Patch over a prick: Aussie researchers to test vaccine jab alternative

Australian researchers will test a way to dole out a vaccine without the need for a needle.

University of Sydney researchers were awarded $1.12 million in funding to undertake independent clinical research studies to determine the effectiveness of a postage-stamp-like alternative to a jab.

They said the technology could prove particularly beneficial for the elderly and healthcare workers who are required to care for infectious patients.

The device is made of biocompatible polymer and covered in thousands of micro-projections, invisible to the naked eye and coated with a vaccine formulation. It’s intended to penetrate the protective outer layer of the skin to deliver the vaccine to cell layers immediately under the skin.

The technology is still under development and has not yet been approved for use.

Lead researcher Professor Rachel Skinner said it presents potential advantages compared to vaccination using a needle and syringe.

“The goal is for the device to only require a small dose of vaccine to generate the same level of immune response in the recipient,” said Skinner.

“The device doesn’t require refrigeration making it easy and cheap to transport and store. It is designed to be simple to use, with the potential to be self-administered.”

The researchers will focus on older adults and healthcare professionals due to their risk of being impacted by pandemic influenza and SARS-COV-2.

Research fellow Cristyn Davies said: “With older populations, we are particularly interested to see how the technology works with those with aged, delicate skin. In both groups, we will test whether it’s feasible and acceptable for them to self-administer the patch, which could prove critical for many populations during a pandemic situation.”

Skinner said that the new studies build on earlier studies carried out by the team in 2019-2020 to test the usability and acceptability of the device among parents, clinicians and immunisation nurses at Sydney Children’s Hospital Network.

The company behind the technology, Vaxxas, plans to begin manufacturing the needle-free devices by early 2022.

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