If approved, COVID-19 vaccine patch could eliminate painful shot

Posted at 1:07 PM, Jun 09, 2020

With over 160 vaccines in development, the race to defeat COVID-19 continues.

A California company hopes to deliver its vaccine to your mailbox; one that is pain-free and doesn't require a needle and syringe.

"One of the things I wanted to do was make vaccines more patient-friendly, so they don't hurt and you're not afraid to take them," said Dr. Dan Henderson, a virologist and the CEO of Verndari, Inc.

The biopharmaceutical company is based in Napa, California.

Dr. Henderson originally came to the wine country to retire but stepped back into the lab during the Ebola crisis.

He says some adults avoid vaccines because of a fear of needles, so Verndari set out to do something different.

They created the VaxiPatch, a single-dose vaccination kit that uses a dermal patch with a metal microneedle array to deliver vaccines. Once applied, the person wears the patch like a Band-Aid for five minutes. The vaccine uses the COVID-19 "spike" protein that enables the virus to infect human cells and works to enhance a person's immune person.

Unlike traditional vaccines, the patch doesn't need to be refrigerated, which Henderson says would make it easier and cheaper to send to developing countries.

The company initially set out to make a flu vaccine but switched gears during the pandemic; they continue to adapt to the world's changing needs.

"Now, for the First World, it's a shelter-in-place vaccine," said Henderson.

They're working with the FDA to see if it could be mailed to your home. The vaccine would leave a temporary blue mark so the patient could take a photo and send it to their health care provider as proof of vaccination.

In collaboration with the UC Davis, they've begun clinical trials in animals. Dr. Henderson says so far the results are promising.

Other researchers are also working on getting a patch like this on people's arms.

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have created a fingertip-sized skin patch that is also showing promising results in animal testing.

Verndari hopes to test its vaccine in humans in the fall, and if all goes well, it could be made available to the public early next year.

Dr. Henderson believes they could manufacture about 20 million doses a month.

"It would mean a lot because it's important to me to make a contribution and a contribution like that, to me, is priceless."