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Painless Shots Are Being Developed: Will New Technology Increase the Willingness of Parents to Vaccinate?

For many parents it is the most dreaded part of a child’s check-up: the moment when you have to distract or even restrain your baby so that a nurse can administer one or even multiple vaccinations. Still, most parents view this as a necessary evil to ensure their child remains healthy. While I don’t delight in hearing my son and daughter cry for the 10 seconds it takes to inoculate them, a little pain seems like a small price to pay to ensure they are protected from a slew of life-threatening illnesses. The idea that some parents would skip vaccinating their children so that they wouldn’t have to experience pain is preposterous to me.

Dr. Erin Giudice, a pediatrician at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, disagrees. In an interview with MSNBC she says she believes there are a number of parents who opt out of vaccination for this reason. 

“Having been around parents before and after their children receive multiple needle-based vaccines at the same time, I just can’t imagine that some proportion of why some families decide not to vaccinate … might have something to do with that we are giving some of these vaccines by a needle,” Giudice says.

Needle-free vaccinations already exist for some illnesses, including the nasal mist to vaccinate against the flu and the oral vaccination to prevent rotavirus, but researchers are working on expanding the option to other ailments.

A company called Medicago has teamed up with the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) to develop a device they call the microneedle, which delivers a vaccine to protect against bird flu via many tiny blades that scratch the skin. “You just feel a little pressure — nothing else,” Reed, president of IDRI, says.

IDRI’s Darrick Carter says that the ultimate goal would be to develop a vaccine that could be mailed to a person’s home that they could deliver themselves.

Other alternatives in the works include a patch that you could apply to the skin that would eventually dissolve, an oral vaccine to protect against anthrax, and a device that delivers the dose through an electrical charge that causes DNA from a virus to penetrate the skin.

Aside from the reduction in pain on delivery, benefits to these methods include easier storage (many vaccines currently require refrigeration, making them hard to ship to warm climates), shorter production times, and, in some cases, increased efficacy.

While I’m all for the advancement of modern medicine, I do hesitate at the thought of them being delivered to a person’s home for self-administration. To me this leaves a lot of room for  patient error. I’m also skeptical that a new device offering a reduction in pain will drastically increase the amount of parents willing to vaccinate their children. If anything I think this will make those who are already skeptical about vaccinations more reluctant.

Are you more likely to vaccinate your children if given a painless option? Given the choice between administering via needle or a new needle-less technology would you opt for the painless method?

Photo credit: iStock

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