This site is intended for health professionals only

Self-administered microneedle patch could replace flu jab and boost uptake, finds study

A patch that delivers the flu vaccine via microneedles is as immunogenic as an intramuscular injection and could improve vaccination uptake rates due to increased acceptability, according to a new study.

The randomised controlled trial, published this week in the Lancet, found that 70% of patients who received the patch said that they preferred it over an intramuscular or intranasal injection. It also found similar levels of antibody production between groups who received either the microneedle patch and the traditional intramuscular injection.

The microneedle patch, designed at the Georgia Institute of Technology, consists of an adhesive patch with microneedles on the underside that are impregnated with the flu vaccine. The patch is pressed down on the skin, where the vaccine is administered intradermally.

The teams from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology who lead the study noted that reactogenic events in the group who received the microneedle patch were mild and transient, consisting mostly of itching and redness.

The intramuscular group reported a higher level of mild to moderate reactogenic events and pain in the days following the injection.

They found no significant difference in the amount of residual vaccine left in the patch after application when it was self-administered by a patient or administered by a healthcare worker, suggesting that patients would not need to see a doctor to receive the vaccine via the patch.

The authors said in the paper: ‘In our population, microneedle patches were well accepted and strongly preferred over traditional intramuscular injection for influenza vaccination, consistent with previous results. This finding could be significant because increased acceptability could enable increased rates of influenza vaccination.

‘Moreover, because participants were able to self-vaccinate and 70% or more preferred it, significant cost savings could be enabled by microneedle patches due to a reduction in health-care worker time devoted to vaccination.’

The findings come as it was reported earlier this year that flu vaccine uptake in at-risk groups in the UK was below PHE targets in the last flu season.

Last week, NICE also released new draft guidelines to advise GPs on improving vaccine uptake.

Lancet 2017; available online 27th June