Tech Gives Vaccinations a Shot in the Arm

Gienna Shaw, January 4, 2011

In a perfect world, everyone in the world would have access to vaccinations against influenza and administration of flu vaccinations would be safe, simple, and effective. We do not, of course, live in a perfect world. But two new technologies are getting medicine a little closer to those goals.

The traditional vaccination method—using a needle and syringe—can be difficult, time-consuming, and dangerous in some countries where unsterile reuse occurs. So why not eliminate the needles? Needle-free jet injectors (and yes, they look like the hypospray devices from the Star Trek TV series) can administer tens of millions of doses of influenza, smallpox, meningitis, and many other vaccines in rapid fashion. Jet injectors reduce the dangers of needles, including reuse of non-sterile needles, needle-stick injuries to health workers, and unsafe disposal of sharps waste, according to the CDC.

Another benefit to the devices: When flu vaccine is given between the layers of the skin, a reduced dose of vaccine can often be as effective as a full dose. This might allow more people to be protected when specific vaccines are expensive or scarce.

Access is another barrier to getting the world vaccinated. There simply aren’t enough healthcare workers to administer vaccines worldwide—regardless of whether they’re using a jet injector or needle and syringe.



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