Will needle-less vaccines be the future?

For those of us living in rich countries that have easily accessible vaccinations, needle-less vaccines are not going to change much (though it would be nice to get a shot without the “shot” part).  But for millions of others, this is a big deal.

I still remember the awful story in a local newspaper when I was in Botswana ten years ago about dozens of kids – it could have even been over 100, if I recall correctly – who were infected with HIV because of a used needle.


Ampules via Shutterstock

We don’t hear much about these stories where we are, but when you’re in poorer countries, you hear about them far more often.

The Gates Foundation is doing some good work around the world, and this is one of their programs that could help millions.

Healthline News:

Live vaccines—which contain active viruses or bacteria—are notoriously hard to deliver in resource-deprived areas because they must be continually refrigerated to keep them viable. However, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, researchers at King’s College London have found a way to administer a dried live vaccine directly to the skin—without needles—that remains effective at room temperature.

Besides solving the problem of refrigeration, needle-less vaccine delivery eliminates a host of other issues: the pain of injections and fear of needles that keep some people from being immunized, the risk of needle contamination with blood-borne illnesses like HIV, and the cost of purchasing many thousands of sterilized hypodermic needles.

If the technology becomes commonplace, it could also better the lives of millions who use needles every day to check their blood sugar levels, administer insulin, and inject anti-inflammatory drugs. In fact, clinical trials of a peptide-based vaccine for type 1 diabetes, led by Professor Mark Peakman of King’s College London, dovetail with these efforts to find better, less painful ways to administer life-saving drugs.

An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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  • Badgerite

    I don’t know what religion Bill and Melinda Gates subscribe to, if they do subscribe to one, but they sure have Rick Warren beat in my book.

  • perljammer

    Right. This technique was developed to facilitate mass immunization in third-world areas for diseases such as smallpox. There’s a problem, though — tests conducted in the mid 1980s found that enough blood was “backwashed” into the injector from each injection, to pass on viruses such as hepatitis. So this newly-developed technique certainly has a lot of merit.

  • Naja pallida

    Jet injection devices have been used regularly since at least the 1970s.

  • Naja pallida

    Yeah, you’re right, it was small pox… the polio vaccine went oral pretty quickly. My memory isn’t what it used to be. :)

  • dula

    Weren’t those circular scars we got from the small pox vaccine?

  • Drew2u
  • UncleBucky

    I’m not a doctor, but I can administer this vaccine, y’all!

    Now, if we can administer vaccines fast enough in places like Nigeria to escape the fundamentalists. Yikes.

  • MyrddinWilt

    Oh come on, you know what people are really thinking here is ‘McCoy’s injection spray from Star Trek’.

  • Drew2u

    I KNOW it’s been over a decade since I heard of medicine or vaccines delivered by a puff of air through the layers of skin without any injection by a physical object into the body.
    So forgive me for being slow, but is the big news … what? that it’s become economically viable for mass-use?

  • Worse: They had to do me three times before it “took”, as I was told back then.

  • nicho

    I’m dating myself, but I remember being vaccinated with a reusable needle — in the US — in school.

  • Naja pallida

    I bet all of those with the circular polio vaccine scar are shaking their fist wondering why this took so long.

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