University of Queensland
UQ's Dr. David Muller
UQ's Dr. David Muller
UQ's Dr. David Muller
UQ's Dr. David Muller
UQ's Dr. David Muller

Vaccine Patch Protects Against COVID-19 With a Single, Pain-free “Click”

Nov. 2, 2021
A needle-free COVID-19 vaccination is in development at the University of Queensland. The vaccine is delivered via a high-density microarray patch.

For most people, getting a needle is more of an annoyance than a fear. But for some, the fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles can be extreme.

An estimated one in 10 people struggle with trypanophobia, also known as “needle phobia.” It matters because vaccine injections campaigns are negatively affected by these stress-related responses. But while people delay or refuse vaccines for various reasons, the fear of needles need not be one of them.

One way to cope is to find a way to get treatment without injections. A needle-free COVID-19 vaccination is in development at the University of Queensland, where scientists developed a “patch” to administer a U.S.-developed vaccine candidate in mice.

The University of Texas Hexapro vaccine candidate—delivered via the UQ-developed and Vaxxas-commercialized high-density microarray patch (HD-MAP)—provided protection against COVID-19 disease with a single, pain-free “click” from a pocket-sized applicator.

The patch is touted as being more user-friendly than the needle. “You simply ‘click’ an applicator on the skin, and 5,000 microscopic projections almost-imperceptibly deliver vaccine into the skin,” said Dr. David Muller, from UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences.

The vaccine, dry-coated on the patch, is thermostable and produced strong immune responses that were shown to be effective when the mice were exposed to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), according to Muller. “When the Hexapro vaccine is delivered via HD-MAP applicator—rather than a needle—it produces better and faster immune responses,” he said.

Muller noted that it also neutralized variants of the coronavirus, including the U.K. and South African variants. 

The UQ researchers, together with Vaxxas, are looking for funding opportunities to accelerate to clinical trials as soon as possible. Muller said the benefits of delivering the high-density microarray patch could effectively assist the global vaccine rollout effort, “particularly for billions of vulnerable people in low- and middle-income countries.”

For one, it can be self-administered. In addition, it does not have the cold chain requirements of some of the current options. When dry-coated on a patch, the vaccination by HD-MAP remains stable for at least 30 days at 25°C and one week at 40°C.

The research is published in Science Advances.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Machine Design, create an account today!