Influenza vaccinations given through a microneedle patch (MNP) received higher patient approval compared with traditional inoculation methods, according to a small study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

In a phase I, randomized, placebo-controlled study, 100 patients between the ages of 18 and 49 years were split into four groups: one given the patch by a health care worker, one instructed to apply the patch at home, one given a vaccine through a traditional intramuscular injection, and one given a placebo.

Of those who took the patch, 70% (33 of 47) preferred the patch to intramuscular injection (The Lancet. 2017 Jun 27. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736[17]30575-5 ).

All nonplacebo groups were given Fluvirin, the 2014-2015 licensed trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine, according to the researchers.

Protection against the virus 6 months after vaccination was similar across all groups other than the placebo group: 20-24 (83%-100%) of 24 participants given the patch by a health care worker, 18-24 (75%-100%) of 24 in the group of patients who gave themselves the patch, and 20-25 (80%-100%) of 25 in the injection group having achieved seroprotection against the three influenza strains 6 months after vaccination.

When measuring reactogenicity, the investigators did find more patients (41 of 50) reported cases of pruritis in the microneedle group than in the injection group (4 of 25).

However, these cases were mostly mild, while the injection group reported more grade 2 and grade 3 reactions, with grade 4 being the most severe.

Given the storage temperature of 40° C and ease of use without a health care provider, the investigators discussed the financial and clinical prospects of the patch.

“Increased acceptability could enable increased rates of influenza vaccination, which are currently less than 50% in adult populations,” they noted. “Moreover, because participants were able to self-vaccinate and 70% or more preferred it, significant cost savings could be enabled by microneedle patches due to a reduction in health-care worker time devoted to vaccination.”

Along with storage life and simple application process, the fact that the microneedles dissolve safely into the skin creates the potential for use in patients’ homes and offices, the researchers noted.

There may also be potential for use among pediatric patients, who may be resistant to vaccinations because of the injection method, they added.

“Microneedle patches have the potential to become ideal candidates for vaccination programmes, not only in poorly resourced settings, but also for individuals who currently prefer not to get vaccinated, potentially even being an attractive vaccine for the paediatric population,” Katja Höschler, PhD, and Maria C. Zambon, PhD, of Public Health England, London, said in a comment published with the study (The Lancet. 2017 Jun 27. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736[17]31364-8 ). “The delivery advantages could also be exploited for non-influenza vaccines.”

Further studies must be conducted to test the efficacy of this vaccination system, because this study was limited by its size, the researchers noted.

The population was less inclined to receive an influenza injection because of the method itself, which may have affected the levels of preference for the patch, they added.

Some of the researchers are employees of Micron Biomedical, a company that manufactures microneedle products, and are listed as inventors on the licensed patents of these products. The investigators reported no other relevant financial disclosures.

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