SCIENTISTS said on Monday (Apr 24) that they have developed the first mobile printer that can produce thumbnail-sized patches able to deliver mRNA Covid vaccines, hoping the tabletop device will help immunise people in remote regions.
While many hurdles remain and the 3D printer is likely years away from becoming available, experts hailed the “exciting” finding.
The device prints 2-cm-wide patches, which each contain hundreds of tiny needles that administer a vaccine when pressed against the skin.
These “microneedle patches” offer a range of advantages over traditional jabs in the arm, including that they can be self-administered, are relatively painless, could be more palatable to the vaccine-hesitant, and can be stored at room temperature for long periods of time.
The popular mRNA Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna need to be refrigerated, which has caused distribution complications – particularly in developing countries that have condemned the unequal distribution of doses during the pandemic.
The new printer was tested with the Pfizer and Moderna jabs, said a study in the journal Nature Biotechnology, but the goal of the international team of researchers behind it is for it to be adapted to whatever vaccines are needed.