A needle-free vaccine patch is 11 times better at combating COVID-19 variants than traditional jabs, according to researchers in Queensland.

Brisbane biotech company Vaxxas and University of Queensland researchers tested the vaccine patches on mice, and found they were far more effective against COVID-19 variants. 

The vaccine patch is a higher-density microarray, known as Hexapro, and counteracts new variants like Omicron and Delta by delivering the vaccine to layers of skin rich in immune cells.

“We found that vaccination via a patch was approximately 11 times more effective at combating the Omicron variant when compared with the same vaccine administered via a needle,” UQ’s Dr Christopher McMillan said.

Every vaccine type tested through the patch produced greater immune responses when compared to a needle vaccination, Dr McMillan added.

Fellow researcher Dr David Muller said available COVID-19 vaccines may not show the same effectiveness due to the emergence of new variants.

Mutations by COVID-19 have left researchers at a crossroads due to the virus’ ability to evade immune responses in 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 said.

“The patches are not only more effective against emerging variants but are also far easier to administer than needle-based vaccines.

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

Vaxxas said they are scaling-up their manufacturing and product development for large-scale clinical trials of the Hexapro COVID-19 patch, including the construction of a first facility in Brisbane.

Their research has been published in Vaccine and was funded by an Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship awarded to Dr Muller.