Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are among those organizations pushing a new vaccine technology that uses patches instead of needles to maximize the reach of vaccines to “the most remote locations.”
A new vaccine technology using patches instead of needles is being described as “groundbreaking,” a “game changer” and having the potential to “transform immunisation coverage in lower-income countries.”
Backed by global players including the World Health Organization (WHO) Gavi, the Vaccine Allianceand the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others, vaccine-containing microarray patches (VMAP) — also known as “micro-array patches” or “microneedle patches,” have been the subject of dozens of scientific papers in recent years.
The claimed benefits of such “vaccine patches” — for everything from measles and rubella (MR) vaccines to various mRNA vaccines — are being widely promoted even though few clinical trials have been completed and no such vaccine has yet been approved by regulators.
Scientific and medical experts who spoke with The Defender raised questions about the technology and warned of potential dangers.
“Whether it is delivered by a needle or a patch, a VMAP is a biological product that atypically manipulates the immune system to provoke strong inflammatory responses that can lead to injury or death for some who receive it.
“If you look at the medical literature describing microneedle vaccine patches, what you see is a lot of hype about how much easier it will be for the vaccinators to slap a patch on a child’s skin instead of using a needle, and how the ‘painless’ patch can reduce vaccine hesitancy.”
Fisher said vaccine hesitancy “has never been about how the product is delivered.” Instead, “it has always been about the lack of evidence demonstrating safety.”
Brian Hooker, Ph.D., P.E., senior director of science and research for Children’s Health Defense, said that the term “vaccine patch” may also be misleading, as it might be confused with nicotine patches for smokers.
Hooker told The Defender:
“The term ‘vaccine patch’ is misleading in that this microarray technology is nothing like other patch-based delivery systems for nicotine or hormones. This ‘patch’ still breaks the skin in order to deliver the liquid vaccine that is contained in the microarray’s matrix.