Despite what a few fear-mongering celebrities might have you believe, vaccines are amazing. They have saved millions of lives, eradicating smallpox worldwide, protecting young girls against cancer-causing HPV and dropping the rates of polio by 99 percent worldwide. And that alleged link to autism? Not supported by science.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, there’s one remaining problem with vaccines. They hurt.
I do my best to look away during my annual flu shot, begging the nurse not to warn me before she injects my fleshy forearm with a needle that always appears bigger than I remembered. And I’m not alone in my fear. Roughly 10 percent of the population have needle phobias.
Australian company Vaxxas is taking pain out of the equation with a thumbnail-sized device. The Nanopatch forgoes needles for thousands of tiny vaccine-coated pins that perforate the outer layer of the skin. The result is a painless delivery.
The Nanopatch likely won’t ease the fears of the California anti-vaxxers responsible for the current measles outbreak. But for a little kid scared of needles, a tingly patch that stays on the skin for a few minutes could take the trauma out of a doctor’s appointment.
And the benefits extend beyond the ouch-free factor. They’re easier to transport to developing countries since they don’t demand cool storage, Mashable reports. The liquid forms of conventional vaccines require refrigeration, which can present a big problem in rural areas where electricity is scarce.
That’s why the company is starting with a Polio Nanopatch, as the paralyzing disease is endemic in three low-income countries: Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Alas, the days of needle-free inoculations are still a few years away. Clinical trials will likely begin this year or next, which means it could be years before the Nanopatch officially hits the market.
Top photo courtesy of Vaxxas