Vaccine MicroArray Patches (VMAPs)
VMAPs can increase vaccine coverage by increasing acceptability by caregivers and recipients, and administering vaccines more rapidly and easily with minimally trained health care workers.
Vaccines play a critical role in ending preventable child deaths, saving two to three million lives each year. However, coverage varies widely among and within countries. Many children from marginalized, vulnerable, fragile and conflict-affected communities lack access to immunization services. In 2019, 19.7 million children did not receive basic vaccines (DTP3 and MCV1). Of these, 13.8 million received no vaccines, also referred to as “zero dose” children.
In some countries, immunization coverage has plateaued or even reversed. Recent outbreaks of measles and vaccine-derived polioviruses demonstrate the importance of sustaining high levels of coverage to eliminate and eradicate diseases.
There are difficulties in reaching the last mile with the current injectable vaccines since they depend on a functional cold-chain and administration by well-trained staff, which can be challenging especially when working in unstable environments and harsh climates. Furthermore, most vaccines are administered via injection that may cause pain, and discomfort that leads to hesitancy, in addition to the risks of hazardous waste from syringes.
A groundbreaking innovative technology with the potential to significantly increase global immunization coverage is the Vaccine-containing MicroArray Patch (VMAP), an intradermal delivery technology for vaccinations. VMAPS provide an alternative to intramuscular and subcutaneous immunization methods and have the potential to increase acceptability by caregivers and recipients while making vaccines more easy to administer. VMAPS do not require the use of needles and can improve safety during administration, reduce the need for cold chains, enable easier storage and transport and remove the risks of needle waste.
While a number of MAP technologies are currently in development, the global research and development community has identified certain barriers to bringing them to scale, including a lack of market incentives by vaccine manufacturers to pursue the development of this technology.
UNICEF is focusing on driving the research, development and scale of VMAPs. Some current activities include identifying barriers for scaling and investigating the need for market pull incentives to spark interest and endorsement by vaccine manufacturers. The end-goal is to ensure a high-quality product can be used in the challenging environments that UNICEF operates.
VMAPs can directly contribute to increasing immunization coverage and decreasing the occurrence and impact of outbreaks. They can be integrated into new and existing strategies and immunization plans, including those for disease-specific programmes to control, eliminate or eradicate diseases.
VMAPs have the potential to substantially improve the productivity and resilience of governments to expand immunization coverage and prevent millions of deaths through a more equitable access to vaccines.