The world has long needed a better vaccine delivery system.” The time of the hollow needle is over – solid dose vaccines are the future

Originally published by the Medicine Maker

I could easily argue that vaccines are the biggest success story of modern medicine; millions of lives are saved across the globe every year through vaccination programs that protect entire populations from a diverse and evolving range of pathogens. Vaccines were already contributing much before COVID-19, but the pandemic demanded an increase in the speed of vaccine innovation and development, with the pharma industry quick to respond with new approaches to vaccine design, testing, and manufacturing scale up.

Despite profound improvements in vaccine development, the predominant delivery device is still a hollow needle and syringe. And it’s worth noting that one of the biggest issues with needle-based delivery, is needle phobia, medically known as trypanophobia – a common issue that has detrimentally affected the uptake of vaccines. Moreover, most modern vaccines still rely on cold chain and trained personnel for delivery, which can prevent accessibility and uptake – especially in locations with unreliable infrastructure or staffing issues.

In other words, though vaccines have achieved a great deal, less emphasis has been placed on solving some basic challenges with their delivery – both across the world and into people’s arms. I’d argue that the world has long-needed a better vaccine delivery system – and one has been developed using a novel technology platform, called aVaxziPen.

First, aVaxziPen ditches the hollow needle in favor of an easy to use (reusable) pen-like applicator and a single-use (and non-reusable by design) cassette, which houses a solid dose vaccine (SDV) of just 0.98 mm in diameter. The pen is simply pressed onto the arm and delivers, with minimal pain sensation and minimal waste, the exact dose of vaccine, which dissolves under the skin in around 15 minutes. Human factor studies strongly indicate a preference for this form of delivery over traditional needle and syringe.

Second, the SDV formulation reduces or eliminates the need to store vaccines under cold-chain conditions, increasing accessibility and reducing the carbon footprint of each life-saving dose. In partnership with Sementis’ recombinant vaccinia, we showed that the SDV formulation retained full vaccine titer for at least 12 months at 40 °C and 22 °C, and higher titer retention at 37 °C and 45 °C compared with liquid controls that mimic traditional vaccines (please note that this data is held on file and is available under a confidential disclosure agreement). The platform has been used to successfully formulate almost all vaccine types – from proteinaceous to viral vector and mRNA vaccines.

We must remember that the total cost of immunizing a population includes the resources required to deliver the vaccines. By reducing storage, training, and equipment costs through modern vaccine delivery techniques, we can ensure that people everywhere have access to effective vaccines. I believe this technology will transform the delivery of vaccines – and deliver a (needle-free) shot in the arm for global health.

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