Shoulder pain is one of the most common types of vaccine-related injuries. But a new vaccine delivery method could make those injuries a thing of the past. That's because a new microneedle patch could, if widely adopted, eliminate the need for medical professionals to use needles when administering vaccines.
Needles can damage the shoulder if the person administering the vaccine uses a needle that is too long, and ends up pushing the needle through the muscle into the shoulder joint. Microneedle patches, on the other hand, use tiny needles attached to what looks like a bandage. In other words, instead of using one large long needle to deliver vaccines, medical professionals may be able to attach a small bandage equipped with microneedles and be done with it. In fact, the person receiving the vaccine may be able to administer a microneedle patch on the skin near the wrist themselves. During the 20-minute application period, the needles administer vaccine, and then dissolve.
Does it work?
Researchers tested the microneedle patch at a clinical trial at Emory University, and found that the patch, which can deliver antibodies for three strains of flu virus, caused less pain than the traditional needle delivery system. Among volunteers involved in the study who received microneedle patches, 70 percent reported a preference for the patches over traditional needles.
Limitations of the study
The Emory study was relatively small, using only 100 volunteers to test the new patch. In addition, the patches caused a minor skin reaction in some at the delivery site. Before you'll start seeing these microneedle patches in wide circulation, researchers will have to conduct much larger studies and address the skin reaction side effect. But if these patches become common, it could mean that the shoulder pain some experience after getting a traditional vaccine shot could become a phenomenon for the medical archives.