This cutting-edge bandage could make flu shots a thing of the past – Karen Kaplan JUNE 28, 2017

Here’s an idea whose time has come: A flu shot that doesn’t require an actual shot.

For the first time, researchers have tested a flu vaccine patch in a human clinical trial and found that it delivered as much protection as a traditional jab with a needle.

It’s not just needle-phobes who stand to benefit from this development, reportedTuesday in the journal Lancet. Doctors and public health experts have high hopes that vaccine patches will boost the number of people who get immunized against the flu.

Seasonal influenza is responsible for up to half a million deaths around the world each year, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States, the annual death toll since 2010 has ranged between 12,000 and 56,000. And yet the proportion of American adults who get a flu shot tends to hover around 40%.

The fact that it usually involves poking a piece of metal into the muscle of your upper arm may have something to do with that low vaccination rate. (Some people also blame the time and expense involved in getting a flu shot.)

But a team led by Georgia Tech engineer Mark Prausnitz has come up with an alternative method that uses “microneedles.” These tiny needles are so small that 100 of them, arrayed on a patch, can fit under your thumb. Yet they’re big enough to hold vaccine for three strains of the flu.

Mark Prausnitz, who develops microneedle technology at Georgia Tech, holds a vaccine patch containing needles that dissolve into the skin.
Mark Prausnitz, who develops microneedle technology at Georgia Tech, holds a vaccine patch containing needles that dissolve into the skin. (Christopher Moore, Georgia Tech)

The microneedle patch was tested in a clinical trial conducted by Dr. Nadine Rouphael and colleagues at Emory University’s Hope Clinic in Decatur, Ga. The trial involved 100 volunteers, who were randomly sorted into four groups.

Two of the groups were vaccinated with the patch, which resembles a Band-Aid and must be applied to the skin near the wrist for 20 minutes. The procedure was so straightforward that one group of volunteers was able to administer the vaccine themselves. (In the other group, healthcare professionals did the job.) Inspection of the used vaccine patches revealed that the microneedles dissolved during the 20 minutes they were on the skin.

A close-up of the microneedle vaccine patch, which contains tiny needles that dissolve into the skin.
A close-up of the microneedle vaccine patch, which contains tiny needles that dissolve into the skin. (Lancet)

A third group received a traditional flu shot using a regular needle, and a fourth group got a patch that looked like the real thing but contained a placebo.

The researchers checked in on the volunteers 28 days after their immunizations and found that flu antibody levels were “significantly higher” in the three groups that got the vaccine than in the group that got the placebo.

What’s more, the two groups that got the vaccine via a patch had about the same antibody levels as the group that got the traditional shot. In addition, the volunteers who put the patches on themselves got the same protection as the volunteers whose patches were administered by health professionals.

After six months, at least 75% of volunteers in all three vaccine groups were still being protected, according to the study.

Article continues:

4 Good Reasons To Get A Flu Shot This Week by Tara Culp-Ressler Posted on January 7, 2015 at 2:55 pm Updated: January 7, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Every new year typically brings new warnings from federal health officials about what Americans should do to protect themselves from the flu. Despite the fact that influenza is a serious public health concern — it’s actually on the list of the top 10 killers in the United States — most people don’t think about it as a major issue. Flu season doesn’t provoke nearly the same level of panic as news about potential Ebola cases, for instance, and the majority of American adults don’t get vaccinated against it.

Medical student Sarah Quillin gets a flu vaccination in Chicago CREDIT: JEAN-MARC GIBOUX/AP IMAGES

If you’re among the estimated 60 percent of adults who don’t usually get a flu shot, there are some compelling reasons to change that this year, despite the recent headlines about the fact that the current vaccine is less effective than usual:

1. This year’s vaccine is better than nothing.

There’s been a lot of coverage about how this year’s flu shot is a bad match for the strains of influenza that are currently circulating. Health experts estimate that the vaccine will work about one third of the time. But that doesn’t mean it makes sense to skip it. Doctors say it’s still worth getting your shot. Even if the vaccine doesn’t prevent you from getting the flu, it can make the symptoms less severe and help you recover more quickly than you would have otherwise. That could make a big difference for vulnerable populations like pregnant women, kids, and elderly Americans, who can catch the flu from healthier people.

“In the average year we see effectiveness of the vaccine at 50 to 70 percent, and so it might be a little lower this year,” Dr. Joseph Bresee, who works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told CBS News this week. “But even if it’s lower it still may provide some protection, which is especially important in people at high risk for severe disease.”

2. More than 20 kids have already died from the flu this season.

At the end of December, the CDC declared that the flu was at epidemic levelsthroughout the country, something that happens virtually every year. But this season appears to be particularly nasty. Six children died of the flu in the last week alone, bringing the total number of deaths among kids up to 21.

Schools across the country are scrambling to keep students healthy as they return from winter break, taking extra precautions like disinfecting their buildings, urging flu shots, and even starting social media campaigns to encourage kids to wash their hands. In Georgia, the ongoing flu outbreak forced an entire school district to close early for the winter holiday. Even if you don’t have kids of your own, you can attempt to make it less likely that you’ll transmit the flu to other children you may come into contact with throughout the winter.

3. Flu season will probably keep getting worse.

Even though the current flu season is well underway, it’s not too late to get a flu shot. Health experts agree that, as long as the virus is still being spread, it’s always a good idea to get the vaccine. According to the CDC, flu season often peaks in January or February, and sometimes lasts all the way into May.

This year specifically, flu season took a turn for the worse just last week, and definitely hasn’t peaked yet. Compared to this time last season, more people are being hospitalized for influenza. And some states like New York and California haven’t yet seen high levels of illness, so CDC experts anticipate a potential spike in flu diagnoses there over the next few weeks. So if you haven’t gotten the vaccine yet, the shot could still make a difference, especially in terms of increasing herd immunity for the entire U.S. population.

4. It won’t cost you anything.

Flu shots are considered to be a standard part of preventative health care — so, thanks to Obamacare, they fall under the category of services that insurers are required to cover without additional cost sharing. The vast majority of people with insurance should be able to get a free flu shot at a provider that falls within their network. You can make an appointment at your doctor’s office, visit your local pharmacy, or make a trip to a retail store like Target, Walmart, or Giant.


Viruses have a knack for ambush. Time and again, they have struck our species without warning, producing new diseases. H.I.V. burst on the scene in the early 1980s, and it took years for scientists to figure out that it had evolved from a chimpanzee virus in the early 1900s. In 2003, a previously unknown bat virus in China began to cause SARS in humans. Today we are in the midst of yet another ambush, as a new virus called MERS is infecting people, mostly in in Saudi Arabia. Scientists have yet to definitively pin down its origin, although preliminary evidence points to another species of bat. “Interesting read”