September 2017

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Flu Vaccine Skin Patch Tested

Each year, millions of people nationwide catch the flu. The best way to protect yourself is to get a flu vaccine every year. But only about 6 out of 10 children and 4 out of 10 adults got the 2015–2016 flu vaccine.

To help increase these numbers, scientists are trying to develop easier ways to give the flu vaccine. A new study shows that a special skin patch may work as well as a shot with a hypodermic needle. The patch is about the size of a dime and has 100 tiny needles that contain flu vaccine. The needles are just long enough to pierce skin. Once inside skin, they dissolve within minutes.

NIH-funded researchers compared giving the vaccine using the skin patch to the usual flu shot. About 100 people took part in the study. More than 7 out of 10 people who had the patch said they preferred it to the flu shot.

The researchers analyzed blood samples to see how well the vaccine activated the body’s protective responses against the flu. The patch seemed to work as well as the shot.

The people who got the skin patch didn’t report any serious side effects. Some described a slight redness or itchiness where the patch had been.

“This bandage-strip sized patch of painless and dissolvable needles can transform how we get vaccinated,” says Dr. Roderic I. Pettigrew, director of NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. More studies will be needed to test the safety and effectiveness of the skin patch.