Measles news: Vaccines now come in painless skin-patches

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Administering the measles vaccine to children may now be easier, especially to those who are living in rural areas of developing countries. Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, Georgia, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are now developing another way to deliver the measles vaccine. This breakthrough comes in a form of a skin-patch that is much more accessible and easier to administer. 

“You put it on like a Band-Aid.” says James Goodson as quoted in Student Science. Goodson is an epidemiologist at the CDC who shared details of this new technology at the annual meeting of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) last Feb. 14, 2016. 

The skin patch holds 100 tiny needles that are nearly half a millimeter long. Looking at the surface of the patch up close with a microscope will reveal a grid of tiny dots. Each dot will be one of those tiny needles and would contain a mix of the dry measles vaccine, sugar, a polymer and some other important ingredients to keep the vaccine stable.

Skin patches are already used to deliver other drugs. The top skin barrier is very thin, at about ten micrometers only. Thus, the administration of the vaccine into the body could be achieved with only these tiny needles. 

Importantly, the skin patch allows it to be stored easily, a feature that many clinics and hospitals in rural areas of developing countries would really benefit from. Traditional measles vaccines come in multi-dose bottles that are required to be stored in cold temperatures. This is hard to achieve in rural health centers given the lack of electricity in these areas.

In addtion, the administration of vaccines is required to be done by trained health care practitioners. This process is also tedious as the vaccines must first be mixed with another liquid. All of these complex steps would essentially be overcome with the measles vaccine skin patch.