Vaccinating millions of people during a pandemic isn’t a cheap and easy task when you need to cold-store vaccines and set up squads of trained people to administer them.
The race is on to find alternatives and deliver vaccines faster.
A few years ago, Queensland developed a needle-free patch (or nanopatch) that revolutionises syringe and needle technology.
Now a University of Queensland scientist is exploring the potential of a patch coated in a COVID vaccine developed in the USA (Hexapro vaccine).
UQ’s Dr David Muller was awarded a $300,000 Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship last year to see if the nanopatch could be used for COVID-19 vaccine delivery.
It is still being tested but looks promising.
Dr Muller has demonstrated the patch can neutralise COVID in animals. The next step is clinical testing in human volunteers.
To date, 17.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Australia.
At our current pace of about 1.8 million doses a week, it will take until 2022 to fully vaccinate Australia’s adult population. We need to vaccinate children and roll out booster shots as well.
The COVID vaccine patch could be a game-changer, particularly for vaccine-hesitant people.
The small, vaccine-coated patch (about 9 mm in diameter) is covered in over a thousand microprotrusions that are painless when they prick the skin.
They produce a better response than a needle, because they penetrate the skin (which is rich in immune cells) rather than the muscle. They also don’t need as much vaccine to be effective, and they can be self-administered.
Dr Muller has shown the COVID vaccine patch is stable for at least 30 days at 25 degrees Celsius and one week at 40 degrees.
This means it doesn’t need refrigeration so it is easy to store and transport and will be great for hard-to-reach regions.
Clinical success and acceptance by regulatory authorities could lead to mass production of the COVID patch.
Nanopatch technology is being commercialised by Brisbane-based Vaxxas as a needle-free alternative for all kinds of vaccines. Vaxxas hopes to start manufacturing their needle-free vaccine technology in 2022.