Jet injectors use high pressure rather than needles to deliver vaccine.
A safer, cheaper way to get vaccines where they are needed most
Injections without needles? It may sound too good to be true, but PATH and our commercial partners are bringing “jet injection” to developing-country immunization programs, where the technology will make it safer and easier for children to get vaccinations and for health workers to give them.
Jet injectors use pressure rather than needles to deliver vaccine as a fine stream of fluid that passes through the skin and into the tissue. The first jet injectors were introduced in the 1940s and were used in many immunization programs—they even helped to eradicate smallpox. Updated and improved over older models, today’s jet injectors use disposable syringes holding a single dose of vaccine. These disposable-syringe jet injectors (DSJIs) overcome many of the risks associated with injections in low-resource settings.
Preventing disease without causing harm
In the United States and other developed countries, trained personnel give injections using new, sterile needles and syringes and then dispose of them properly. But in developing countries, at least half of all injections given are unsafe. The very injections meant to prevent or treat disease can end up causing harm instead.
Injections become unsafe when needles and syringes are reused or health workers lack the training to give injections properly. In addition, systems for disposing of medical waste may be weak. Used needles may be retrieved from the garbage and resold—or may find their way into the hands of curious children.
Jet injectors eliminate the need for needles, going a long way toward protecting both patients and health workers.
Changing the landscape of immunization
In addition to making injections safer, jet injectors are able to consistently and reliably deliver vaccine intradermally—a method that has the potential to use up to 80 percent less vaccine than traditional needle-based methods of vaccination (often administered at the subcutaneous or intramuscular levels). Using less helps conserve vaccines that are in short supply and saves money.
Jet injectors, with their ability to replace needles and syringes and potential to use less vaccine, might just help overcome inequities in health, safety, and economics that keep children in the developing world from getting the protection they need to lead healthy, productive lives.
Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.