According to a study conducted by Michelle Starr in 2018, over 25% of the US population has trypanophobia; that is, a fear of needles. Their skin is not accustomed to the sensation of being pricked with a sharp object such as a needle, especially during vaccination shots. Even if you are not afraid of needles, it is an uncomfortable experience hearing your children (or other children in the doctor’s office) crying in fear of the anticipating injection. With this new advancement, however, these experiences will be a thing of the past and those who suffer trypanophobia will feel much more confident during their next doctor’s appointment
This advancement known as “microneedles” not only enables painless injections but they also encourage fewer trips to medical labs. These microneedles bypass the pinching sensation of an injection by avoiding contact with the nerves inside your skin. Previously, the size of an injection needle was too large to avoid the layer of nerves inside your skin. Microneedles, however, only measure about 50 to 2000 microns in length (about the same as a piece of hair) thus being able to penetrate the nerve layer of your skin painlessly, while also avoiding blood vessels.
In addition to eliminating the fear of needles, microneedles also increase the efficiency and reliability of the injection. This is because, while traditional injection practices relied on diffusion of the vaccine though the skin which was not always reliable due to the person’s health, microneedles apply the vaccine directly to the epidermis, thus letting the vaccine travel freely throughout the body. This idea is especially important in a time where COVID-19 cases continue to increase heavily as people believe that injection shots are “unreliable.” Also, news reporters such as Juan Salazar ask “How will kids handle the COVID-19 vaccine?” Through the use of microneedles, even the youngest kids will not feel a pinch.
While microneedles are planning on being commercialized more frequently in the years to use, there are also a few drawbacks. According to analyst Elizabeth O Day, “not all drugs can pass through microneedles, nor can all biomarkers be sampled through them. More research is needed to understand how factors such as the age and weight of the patient, the site of injection, and the delivery technique influence the effectiveness of micro-needle based technologies.” This may mean changing the drug itself, which is not easy and not cheap either.
As long as these issues are rectified, however, many doctors believe that microneedles will usher in a more comfortable and reliable time of delivering vaccinations. Not only will it prove beneficial to those with trypanophobia, but you can be rest assured that the vaccination will travel safely throughout the body without needing to go to a medical lab. Will microneedles also end the fear of COVID-19 forever? We hope it does.