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Coronavirus

Vaccine patch offers more robust protection against omicron, delta COVID-19 variants

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A COVID-19 vaccine patch is more effective at fighting variants such as delta and omicron than a traditional needle shot, a new study has found.

The research, conducted by Australia’s University of Queensland and in partnership with Brisbane-based biotech company Vaxxas, deduced that the needle-free COVID-19 vaccine patch could offer more robust protection against the virus, which has so far claimed over 6.4 million lives since the outbreak in December 2019.

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The researchers analyzed the Hexapro SARS-CoV-2 spike vaccine using Vaxxas high-density microarray patch (HD-MAP) technology.

“The high-density microarray patch is a vaccine delivery platform that precisely delivers the vaccine into the layers of the skin which are rich in immune cells,” said Christopher McMillan of Queensland University in a statement.

“We found that vaccination via a patch was approximately 11 times more effective at combatting the Omicron variant when compared with the same vaccine administered via a needle.”

He added that this work potentially extends beyond just the Hexapro vaccine.

“So far, every vaccine type we have tested through the patch, including subunit, DNA, inactivated virus and conjugate produces superior immune responses compared to traditional needle vaccination methods,” he said.

Dr David Muller of the University of Queensland said that currently available vaccines might not be as effective due to the emergence of new variants.

“This decreased effectiveness was highlighted by the Omicron variant, which contains over 30 mutations in the spike protein,” Dr Muller said.

“The large number of mutations have given the virus the ability to evade the immune responses generated by the current vaccines. However, the patch technology has the potential to offer a new – and more effective – weapon in our arsenal, at a time where new variants are mutating at a rapid rate,” he explained.

The patches are also easier to administer than needle-based vaccines, he added, as many people with a fear of needles have avoided getting the vaccine which could potentially put their health and the health of others at risk.

“But, it is important to stress that existing vaccines are still an effective way of combatting serious illness and disease from this virus and it is not the time to drop our guard.”

“We are continuing to scale up our manufacturing capabilities and accelerate product development in preparation for large-scale clinical trials,” said Vaxxas CEO David Hoey.

“This includes the construction of our first manufacturing facility in Brisbane to support the transition to commercializing of our HD-MAP vaccine candidates, including a Hexapro COVID-19 patch.”

The new study was published in the journal Vaccine.

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