Getting your vaccines may soon be as simple as taking a breath, thanks to a world first in research from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in Melbourne.
The research aims to make vaccines a breathable vapour through the power of sound waves, which could mean no more crying kids at the doctor’s office or sore shoulders.
Lead researcher, Dr Anushi Rajapaksa, said the technology takes away the complications involved in training people to administer vaccines and makes it much easier to vaccinate people in the third world.
“We’ve been able to show that through the process of a gentle form of soundwaves we’ve been able to preserve those bonds and preserve that biological function,” she said.
The world-first research uses a sound-wave generating machine called a nebuliser to shoot ripples of sound waves, too high-pitched for the human ear, across the surface of the vaccine and lift droplets into a vapour.
Dr Margie Danchin, general paediatrician at the Royal Children’s Hospital and member of the Vaccine and Immunisation Research Group at the MCRI, said breathable vaccines could do something about the 10 per cent of parents who are concerned immunisations are painful.
But, she said, “the causes for under-vaccination differs, there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem”.
“If there are other modes of delivery that are effective and not painful, I would see [that] as a step forward.”
The team at the MCRI is using the technology to creating a breathable vaccine to treat Respiratory Syncytial Virus, which is a major cause of respiratory illness in young children, many of whom are too young to be given jabs.
Dr Rajapaksa said the big problem in vapourising vaccines has been ensuring they didn’t lose their effectiveness through the process.
Some vaccines are notoriously easy to denature, requiring constant refrigeration and careful transportation.
However, the breathable vaccines won’t be coming to a doctor’s office near you quite yet. Extensive tests need to be carried out, Dr Rajapaksa saying it might be as long as a 10-year wait.
The recent tests follow on from research conducted in 2014, which showed the technology was possible.
Dr Rajapaksa said the 2014 results were so significant because no one had ever been successful in keeping the proteins in a vaccine intact and that she’s hoping to build on the earlier success.
This all comes as the government continues to encourage people to get their flu vaccines, which the Australian government recommends for everyone aged six months and over.
Dr Danchin said only about 5 per cent of kids get their flu vaccine, with adults not much better, but that she hoped this kind of technology could be useful for improving coverage in the future.
Dr Danchin said there were big pockets in every city and state where under vaccination was a problem, but that the main cause of that was distrust of vaccines or a lack of access to vaccination.
She said almost 40 per cent of parents expressed some degree of concern about vaccines, and 8-15 per cent were highly concerned.