Skin Patches May Replace Shots

Posted on November 6, 2006 reports that skin-patch vaccines are being tested that could replace shots. If effective this could be an excellent method for distributing a vaccine to a large number of people in an emergency -- the skin-patches could be delivered in the U.S. mail.

Early tests of skin-patch vaccines are beginning in hundreds of volunteers, one version designed to protect against the flu and another to prevent travelers' diarrhea.

The idea isn't just pain-free vaccination. The National Institutes of Health is helping fund patch research in hopes of strengthening today's imperfect flu shots, and gaining extra help if bird flu or some other super-flu ever triggers a pandemic.

Indeed, patch developer Iomai Corp. proposes that the mailman, not a doctor, deliver flu vaccine during a pandemic. Once a vaccine is brewed, simply ship patches to people's homes with instructions to slap one on.

Doctors might not like the go-it-alone method. But the technology's main promise may be in developing countries. Unlike syringe-based vaccines, patches wouldn't need refrigeration � nor pose the infection risk of reused needles, a continuing problem.

If it works -- and the skin-patch method is as powerful and effective as a shot -- it would certainly make allergy and flu prevention a lot easier. It would also make a lot of little shot-fearing kids much happier.

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