04/29/2015 02:13 EDT | Updated 05/14/2015 12:59 EDT

Measles Vaccine Patch Could Eliminate Needles, Save Thousands Of Kids Annually

While antivaxxer-related outbreaks keep happening in places once deemed measles-free, the disease was never eradicated in developing countries where it kills 400 children daily. But the measles patch could help save their lives.

Gary Meek, Georgia Tech

While antivaxxer-related outbreaks keep happening in places like North America once deemed measles-free, the disease was never eradicated in developing countries where it still kills 400 children every single day. But a "game-changer" solution is coming that could save their lives.

Unlike parents here who refuse vaccines due to religious beliefs or misinformation, many who live in remote areas don't even have the opportunity to vaccinate their children due to a lack of medical resources.

As Popular Science reports, hypodermic needle vaccines need sterile conditions, a medical professional and often refrigeration. But these requirements can be eliminated with a patch that uses "microneedles" to deliver vaccines, be it for measles or other preventable diseases, from minimally-trained workers.

It's an innovation that also dramatically simplifies storage because of its stability in varying temperatures as well as distribution and disposal.

Researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Georgia Tech have announced human clinical trials on their vaccination patch will start as early 2017. Researchers have been working on the project for years.

Their recently-completed study found the microneedle patch "produces a strong immune response in rhesus macaques [with] no adverse effects or health issues."

The patch measures about a square centimetre in size and is covered in "100 solid, conical microneedles made of polymer, sugar, and vaccine that are a fraction of a millimeter long." Vaccinations can be delivered with a mere press of the thumb. Upon contact with skin, the microneedles quickly dissolve and release the vaccine.

“With no needles, syringes, sterile water or sharps disposals needed, the microneedle patch offers great hope of a new tool to reach the world’s children faster, even in the most remote areas,” said CDC Global Immunization Division epidemiologist James Goodson in a statement. "This advancement would be a major boost in our efforts to eliminate this disease, with more vaccines administered and more lives saved at less cost."

But the herd immunity that keeps being discussed in anti-vax conversations is also applicable globally. Currently measles vaccine coverage is at about 85 per cent, but the CDC hopes this new patch could help it reach "the 95 per cent needed to interrupt transmission of the disease."

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