SEATTLE — Scientists are creating a vaccine that may spell the end of getting multiple booster shots. This new vaccine would contain the first dose of vaccine needed as well as the follow-up shots that would be required all in one shot. By improving vaccines to be an all-in-one shot means children in developing countries can get all the vaccinations they need at once. The vaccine has been recently approved to be used on humans but challenges still remain and need to be solved before they are used.
What exactly is this new vaccine? The design of the vaccine is encapsulating different vaccines in biodegradable molecules. Once injected into the body the separate molecules break down at different times releasing the different vaccines over a period of time. This allows physicians to administer one shot but still have the booster shots needed with the initial vaccine to enter the body at the appropriate time.
Scientists have achieved this design by using silicone cubes instead of ice cube trays. Scientists inject the needed vaccines into the silicone cube and then, after they have dried, heat them up to seal them. The heating process seals the vaccine until it starts to break down in the body at the appropriate time. The timing of the breakdown of the molecule depends on the makeup of the molecule itself, which can be changed to break down more rapidly or over a longer period of time.
One of the main challenges of this vaccine is controlling the temperature in different climates. The vaccine must be heated to a certain temperature in order to seal it or else the vaccines would be released all at once. The other problem with temperature is that the body has to be stabilized at a certain temperature after the vaccine is administered. This requires a highly controlled environment.
Scientists remain optimistic about improving vaccines and their benefits for children in developing countries. According to Ana Jaklenec who is a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and co-author of research about vaccinations in developing countries, says that typically children are only seen at birth. This means that children are not typically getting booster shots required by most vaccines.
The reason children are only seen once is the lack of resources and cost. Backing up this claim is a study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, in which researchers reported that the lack of access to vaccines as well as the high cost of multiple vaccines were the two main barriers that stopped children from receiving booster shots.
Although this technology is not perfect and has some challenges to overcome scientists believe that this way of improving vaccines can be a great alternative to multiple booster shots.
– Deanna Wetmore