Good news for the needle-phobic.

Australian scientists have developed a cheap and painless ’needle-free’ vaccination device that can be self-administered.

A team of 20 researchers led by Professor Mark Kendall, from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at The University of Queensland, have developed the Nanopatch, a stamp-sized vaccine delivery device that could make vaccination programmes globally simpler and cheaper.

The Nanopatch, having 20,000 micro projections per square centimetre, is designed to directly place vaccine into the human skin, which is rich in immune cells.

And unlike the needle and syringe, which places vaccine into the muscle - which has very few immune cells - the Nanopatch puts it to our immune sweet spot.

“And by doing that we make vaccines work a lot better,” Kendall told PTI.

“The Nanopatch potential lies in it being cheap, painless, very effective being transported without refrigeration - and can be given without the need for extensive training,” Kendall said.

The removal of the need for refrigeration is achieved by dry-coating vaccine to the Nanopatch, which could have huge potential for developing countries like India, and many within Africa, he said.

The World Health Organisation estimates 50 per cent of vaccines in Africa do not work properly because the ’cold chain’ has been broken.

In a pandemic, the reduced dose would also make it easier for governments to supply sufficient vaccine to the public, he added.

The new device is simple as it does not need a trained practitioner to administer the vaccine.

The Nanopatch has to be worn to just 2 minutes or even less, thus giving a pain-free immunisation, he said.

The vaccine could hit markets in next 10 years, Kendall said.

The Nanopatch, described as a “vaccine utopia” was recently won Prof Kendall and his team the 2011 Eureka Prize for Excellence in Research by an Interdisciplinary Team.

The prize is part of the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.

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