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Smart Skin Patches Created to Inoculate COVID-19 Vaccine

Behold an alternative method of receiving vaccines instead of the regular hypodermic needle.

Smart Skin Patches Created to Inoculate COVID-19 Vaccine
Microneedles Swansea University

There will potentially be an alternative method of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, and other vaccines, thanks to a team of researchers in the U.K.

The team at Swansea University in Wales is developing the first coronavirus vaccine in the form of a "smart patch." The device is disposable and administers the vaccine through microneedles, which simultaneously monitor its efficacy by measuring each individual's immune response. 

The first prototype is set to be ready in March, which would then hopefully move onto clinical trials before becoming commercially available within three years.

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The researchers' hope is that this smart patch won't only prove useful to treat people against the coronavirus, but also other diseases.

Instead of plunging a regular, hypodermic needle into a patient's arm, the smart patch's millimeter-long microneedles would penetrate the skin less invasively all while administering the vaccine. The patch would be held in place through a strap for 24 hours, as the BBC reported.

Smart Skin Patches Created to Inoculate COVID-19 Vaccine
The difference in size between a microneedle in a smart patch (top) versus a hypodermic needle (bottom). Source: Swansea University

Not only will the smart patch offer immunization against the virus, but it would also measure the patient's inflammatory response to the vaccine thanks to biomarkers in the skin. 

A better and more accurate understanding of each user's bodily response would be provided. 

"Measuring vaccine efficacy is extremely important as it indicates the protective effects of vaccination on an individual via the level of reduction of infection risk in a vaccinated person relative to that of a susceptible, unvaccinated individual," said Dr. Sanjiv Sharma of Swansea University.

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Smart Skin Patches Created to Inoculate COVID-19 Vaccine
Dr. Sanjiv Sharma with the smart chip. Source: Swansea University

Not only would this method of administering a vaccine be less painful, but it would also be more accurate and less expensive to administer. 

"This low-cost vaccine administration device will ensure a safe return to work and management of subsequent Covid-19 outbreaks," explained Dr. Sharma.

Moreover, the smart patch wouldn't only be useful for the COVID-19 outbreak, but for future diseases, too. 

"Beyond the pandemic, the scope of this work could be expanded to apply to other infectious diseases as the nature of the platform allows for quick adaption to different infectious diseases."

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