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Say goodbye to needles with vaccine patch

Sue Dunlevy, June 3, 2021 7:00PM News Corp Australia Network

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The University of Queensland research team of Dr Chris McMillan (front left) and Dr David Muller (front right) and (back, left to right) Dr Alberto Amarilla, Dr Naphak Modhiran Ortiz and Ms Jovin Choo. media_cameraThe University of Queensland research team of Dr Chris McMillan (front left) and Dr David Muller (front right) and (back, left to right) Dr Alberto Amarilla, Dr Naphak Modhiran Ortiz and Ms Jovin Choo.

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We could soon be giving ourselves Covid vaccines without the need for a needle, a doctor or a nurse thanks to a “game changing” discovery by Australian scientists.

A Covid vaccine patch developed by Australian scientists has proven to be more effective than a needle at preventing Covid in mice, a new study that has yet to be peer reviewed* shows.

Only a single dose was required and the patch worked to make multiple Covid types ineffective, including the more infectious UK and South Africa variants*.

University of Queensland scientists are looking for funding to take the vaccine patch to human trials. If successful, it could be available within two years.

“It’s a very simple device it’s very easy to apply, you don’t need trained medical staff,” said UQ researcher Dr David Muller.

“You take the applicator. Take off a foil seal, press it to the arm, it goes click and you leave it on for 10 seconds and you remove it and you are vaccinated.”

The patch delivers the vaccine into the skin using 5000 microscopic* projections* that cause no pain.

And it could completely revolutionise* and speed up vaccine delivery — beyond the Covid jab — eliminating* the need for vaccine appointments.

media_cameraThe patch, called a high-density microarray patch (HD-MAP), to deliver the Covid-19 vaccination.

The vaccine is stable at up to 25C for a month, making it much easier to distribute in areas where refrigeration can be difficult.

“We’ve shown this vaccine, when dry-coated on a patch, is stable for at least 30 days at 25 degrees Celsius and one week at 40 degrees (Celsius), so it doesn’t have the cold chain* requirements of some of the current options,” Dr Muller said.

The vaccine patch uses a sub-protein* vaccine called Hexapro, which is similar in type to the Novavax Covid vaccine the Australian government has bought. (If Novavax continues to perform well in trials it is expected to be available in Australia later this year, in addition to the two vaccines already available, AstraZeneca and Pfizer.)

Hexapro was developed by scientists at the University of Texas in the US but before it can be trialled in humans, scientists will have to test it on mice to check the vaccine is not toxic to animals.

University of Sydney’s Professor Robert Booy, who is the chief medical officer for Vaxxas — the company developing the patch with UQ — said the Covid patch was more effective than a needle because it used immune cells on the surface of the skin.

“The tiny needles pierce the epidermis* or the upper dermis*, where you’ve got a whole bunch of very good immune cells, which are scanning for foreign antigens*,” he said.

“It means you deliver it to the sweet spot* where the antigen presenting cells are waiting to find foreign things,” he said.

The research team has already tested the patch in humans to deliver the flu vaccine and trials are underway at the moment to test whether it works to deliver measles and rubella* vaccines.

GLOSSARY

  • peer reviewed: a process by scientists no involved in the study of checking how good the research techniques are
  • variants: different versions
  • microscopic: so small it can only be seen through a microscope
  • projections: bits that stick out
  • revolutionise: completely change how something is done
  • eliminating: getting rid of completely
  • cold-chain: the process of storing and transporting vaccines from where they are made to where they are used
  • sub-protein: tiny fragments of a protein used to make a vaccine, rather than giving someone a dose of an actual disease-causing protein
  • epidermis: the outermost layer of skin
  • dermis: the middle layer of our three layers of skin
  • antigens: any substance that causes the body to have an immune response
  • sweet spot: ideal place
  • rubella: contagious viral infection

EXTRA READING

How does the coronavirus vaccine work?

Vaccine maker ‘near ecstatic’ after trial result

Vaccinations eliminate rubella from Australia

Australia, the land of great ideas

QUICK QUIZ

  1. What does this invention do?
  2. For how long does the patch need to be held on the skin?
  3. How many tiny projections are on the patch?
  4. Use the glossary to explain in your own words what cold-chain means.
  5. What kind of cells on the skin does this vaccine patch use?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. How Does it Work?
Design a step-by-step diagram that shows how and why the vaccine patch works better than a needle jab.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Communication Design, Science

2. Extension
Do you know how vaccines work to stop disease like Covid-19? List all of the information in the story that helps you understand this.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science

VCOP ACTIVITY
Aside from this, there is also this!
Brackets are a great literacy tool for adding aside comments, or comments that could be covered over and the sentence still makes sense. What’s inside the brackets is extra information.

They can be used for a variety of effects: to add more detail, to add humour, to connect with the reader etc.

My little brother, (the funniest kid I know) got himself into big trouble today.

Select 3 sentences from the article to add an aside comment to using brackets. Think about not only what you want to add to the sentence, but also what effect you are trying to create.

Extra Reading in science