If flu vaccine patches were a thing, not only would most people be able to self-administer them, but they could also make people more receptive to getting vaccinated, according to a small new study.
Researchers from Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the number of people who said they would get vaccinated against the flu in the next year went up from 46 to 65 percent, when they were told that a flu vaccine patch would be an option.
Researchers also examined the feasibility of self-administering such a patch, and found that "everyone was capable of administering a microneedle patch appropriately,"study researcher Mark Prausnitz, a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, said in a statement. However, he noted, not everyone properly administered the patch on their first try.
To be clear, there is not yet a flu vaccine available in a patch form, though the researchers noted a vaccine patch could be available in the next five years. And the study, published in the journal Vaccine, did not examine the efficacy of a microneedle vaccine patch in administering a vaccine; it only examined the ability of people to self-administer such a patch, pain associated with administering the patch, and whether a patch option would improve reception of a vaccine.
The study included 91 people who had never used a microneedle patch before. They were given brief instructions on applying a patch before being given three patches to self-apply and having a fourth patch applied by a researcher. They were also given an injection of saline. (None of the materials actually contained any vaccine.)
Researchers measured how "well" the participants were able to self-administer the patches by looking at at the little holes created by the microneedles on the patches, which were made visible with dye. Some of the participants who were given a feedback tool -- which made a clicking sound when they used enough force while applying the patch -- did better at applying the patch correctly, and essentially eliminated any application mistakes.
The study participants were also asked about pain levels associated with the patch and with the injection of the saline. The patch was associated with a pain level of 1.5 out of 100, on average, while the injection was associated with a pain level of 15 out of 100, on average.