A new method of experimental flu vaccinations appears safe and effective, preliminary studies show.

Researchers have developed a flu vaccine patch with 100 solid, water-soluble and painless microneedles that are just long enough to penetrate the skin. The vaccine is released through the needles, which dissolve within a few minutes and then the patch is peeled off and thrown away.

This new method could offer a pain-free and more convenient and less expensive alternative to traditional flu shots.

"A particularly attractive feature is that this vaccination patch could be delivered in the mail and self-administered. In addition, this technology holds promise for delivering other vaccines in the future," said Dr. Roderic Pettigrew, director of the U.S. National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), which funded the study.

The study, recently published in The Lancet, found in 100 adults the patch triggered strong immune responses and didn't cause any serious side effects. At most, some of the patients developed skin reactions to the patches, such as faint redness and mild itching that lasted 2-3 days.

The patch does not need to be refrigerated and has a long shelf life, according to a news release from the institution.

This new technology could offer economic and manufacturing advantages and the team plans to conduct further clinical trials to learn more. They are also working on developing patches to be used for other vaccines, such as measles, rubella and polio.

For more information about the patch, click here.

Some information featured in this story was originally posted on MedlinePlus.

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April Stevens is a multi-platform producer at WZZM 13. Have a news tip? Email news@wzzm13.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter.