It was 2006. I was waiting in line, palms sweaty, brow slick with sweat and heart pounding painfully against my chest. The queue gradually shortened and my breath came out in quicker bursts. I felt nauseous, dizzy, faint… I was paralysed to the spot yet overwhelmed with a desire to flee. The person in front of me disappeared and moments later, a lady dressed in a clinical, crisp-white uniform waved me over to her cramped desk. I auto-piloted towards her, trembling from head to toe. My dread increased in monumental proportions. But then.. a sudden numbness.
All those horrible, uncomfortable feelings disappeared. I was so afraid of my impending injection… … I passed out. *** * *** * *** It was not until my second last year of high school when all students had to undergo compulsory meningococcal vaccinations that I discovered my trypanophobia. According to Mavissakalian and Barlow in ‘Phobia: Psychological and Pharmacological Treatment’ (the sound of the two author’s name themselves suggest authority), trypanophobia refers to the extreme fear of hypodermic needles or injections in medical procedures.
It is normal for those of us with pressure and/or pain receptors to feel some form of discomfiture regarding these types of procedures but for trypanophobics, our fears are exaggerated and unreasonable and we are powerless to control it. For instance, I go out of my way to avoid any form of medical treatment in fear that it may involve the ominous injection. In fact, thinking about it makes me incredibly anxious and makes typing this blog entry very difficult due to ‘sweaty-palm syndrome’. We trypanophobics can now breathe a sigh of relief as an alternative to those monstrous needles is being developed on a global scale.
Scientists are working on a type of skin patch to administer vaccines without the need for painful jabbing. There are several groups of researchers – government, university, and drug companies – working internationally to achieve this end. It, however, originated from the depths of an Australian Dr Mark Kendall’s mind and he was given sum of $15 million by a plethora of financial backers to initiate this project. The drug still has to enter the body system somehow so how, you may ask, can this nanopatch do it without any pain? Conventional injections administer the vaccine deep into muscle tissue.
These nanopatches consist of hundreds of microscopic needles that dissolve into the skin. The patch is smaller than a postage stamp and has 20,000 micro-projections per square centimetre dry-coated with vaccine. When the patch is placed against the skin, the projections push through into the narrow layer beneath the skin surface. Richard Compans, professor of microbiology and immunology at Emory University School of Medicine, says that “the skin is a particularly attractive site for immunisation because it contains an abundance of the types of cells that are important in generating immune responses to vaccines”.
To simplify what Dr Compans has said, the skin is densely packed with immune cells called dendritic cells. These cells pass the vaccine around the body to stimulate protection. Because dendritic cells are found in abundance in the skin, a stronger immune response is triggered with the same dosage as a conventional injection. Therefore – theoretically – the same response can be generated with a lower dose of vaccine. Essentially, they do not hurt because the microneedles do not go deep enough into the skin to aggravate any nerve endings.
As a comparison, typical hypodermic needles span a few millimetres in length, whereas a microneedle is about a micrometre long. Researchers from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology in America have inaugurated testing on these nanopatches. Their victims of choice were mice. They divided the mice into two groups, one group being administered the patch with a flu vaccine and the other with the traditional hypodermic needle injected straight into the muscle.
Both groups of mice were infected with the flu virus three months later and it shows that the lucky batch of mice (the one with the nanopatches) appeared to have fared better. They concluded that these studies show nanopatches can deliver vaccines just as effective as conventional injections. (I confess I may be prematurely dancing with jubilation at this stage. ) A professor in the Georgia Tech School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Mark Prausnitz, goes a step further to publically declare that the “dissolving microneedle patch can vaccinate against influenza probably better than a traditional hypodermic needle”.
Any replacement of a big, invasive needle is argument enough for me to vehemently champion this new development but for those that need more convincing, this system means that people without a medical background or patients themselves can administer a vaccine. I suppose when you think about it, it is just like plastering on a nicotine patch and 1. 3 million of the world’s population wanting to give up smoking (says U. S. News) are now particularly adept at doing this.
In case of a swiftly-moving epidemic or biological attack, these nanopatches can be mass produced and dispersed relatively quickly – and getting the vaccine to the public in time can save lives. For example, the H1N1 Swine Flu virus killed thousands of people in 2009 when it first came out because the vaccines took too long to manufacture and too long to propagate. With the nanopatch’s simpler manufacturing processes and self-administration possibilities, it can be produced and sent directly to the public, bypassing the need for medical personnel and potentially saving time, money and lives.
Sean Sullivan, the study’s lead author from Georgia Tech, said, “We envision people getting the patch in the mail or at a pharmacy and then self-administering it at home”. Moreover, there would be no fear of bio-hazard residue as the microneedles on these nanopatches dissolve into the skin. There would be no question of dangerous, sharp needles further inflicting harm on the world. To all tax payers reading this article, the nanopatch’s direct delivery to immune cells means it uses less than the standard needle and syringe dose, drastically reducing the cost to the health system.
Medical personnel are also not needed to be employed for drug administration. Imagine the cost-reduction in large-scale immunisation programmes! Surely postage would cost a lot less than employing an army of nurses. The nanopatch can also theoretically boast of Samaritan efforts and well as a medical breakthrough. According to the World Health Organization, an estimate of 50 per cent of vaccines in Africa do not work properly because of heat deterioration and a break in the ‘cold chain’ en route. Strategically enough, nanopatches do not require refrigeration.
Not to mention, self-administration of a vaccine would greatly simplify immunization efforts in the majority of third world countries where medical personnel is not readily available. Professor Kendall is confident that, if everything works well, this invention would be on the market in the next two to five years. I have trawled the far-reaching corners of the web and have yet to find a resolute voice attacking the miraculous nanopatch (so far). All reports that I have scrutinized have been positive.
I very secretly but very fervently hope this means I never have to endure a hypodermic injection from here on in. I am seven years overdue for a Rubella injection and I think I can afford to wait for the nanopatch technology to be available to the public before direly needing it done. But for my sake, and the sanity of the fellow trypanophobics, let us hope the nanopatch comes out in two years instead of five. Fingers crossed. Exegesis: Methodology This blog’s primary purpose is to inform and advocate the advantages of the nanopatch vaccine technology. To a lesser extent it also serves to entertain.
The target audience are 17 to 29 years olds who are active in the blogosphere and may not come from a scientific background. Admittedly, they may also be sufferers of trypanophobia. It is important to clearly identify who my targeted demographic is. Tailoring my writing style to suit their needs, and tastes, is more likely to trigger a response (Johnston & Zawawi, 2009). I have chosen to write it in blog form as it is the easiest, quickest and most likely medium of the article reaching my target audience. It is a medium that this generation is most in touch with.
This piece of writing is the product of sifting information from news articles, scientific journals, interviews and organization websites that are densely packed with scientific terminology. Relevant information is identified then ‘translated’ so that it can be understood by the average citizen (Newsom and Haynes, 2007) . As I have complete creative control over my blog, I wanted the structure and language to be engaging and age-appropriate. Literature and Resource Review I read Blogging Heroes: Interviews with 30 of the World’s Top Boggers (Banks, 2007) as research for this project.
It illuminated how blogs are structured to generate maximum attention. I had to restructure my preliminary draft as, although it was artistically and linguistically creative, there was not enough content in the title to draw a blogger’s initial interest. Apart from that Redish (2012) also advocated the need for concision. People come to the web for content. I wanted to make my blog fun and informative at the same time but I had to ‘converse’ well with my audience, and I had to converse well with a few words. The structure of the blog is important in generating readership as well.
I employed the techniques outline in Redish (2012) such as legible font sizing, use of italics and bold words and medium line lengths to set the tone and personality of my piece. Writing Techniques I employed a fairly informal, first person writing style to personalize my piece and establish a rapport with my audience. A plethora of scientific information is condensed into the body of the entry. Adopting an informal writing style makes the information easier to digest as well as more relatable to the target audience (Newsom and Haynes, 2007). I started my entry with a writing hook – an anecdote that catches the reader’s attention.
It starts of in a light-hearted, story-telling manner than slowly transitions into a more formal language in the body where there is a condensation of facts. I employed the ‘Five Ws and H’ method to structure my article to ensure the inclusion of all important and relevant facts (Mahoney, 2008). I also used the comparison technique. The contrast between a conventional needle and the nanopatches is made to make the subject of my blog appear more desirable than the alternative. This helps my goal in advocating the benefits of nanopatches. Lastly, there is an attempt to experiment with humour in this blog piece.
There is an element of exaggeration to the emotions being portrayed. Humour serves two purposes here, the first being to draw the reader in and the second is ensure the reader is not suffocated by the more serious section. I reiterate, this blog entry is merely presenting information and not meant to persuade therefore eliminating the need to use stronger language as a persuasion tool. Achievement of Goal Yes this blog piece achieves its goal. It delivers information in a compact but understandable way with (I hope) a sprinkling of effervescence.
My biggest obstacle in writing it was presenting scientific facts in a fun manner. I struggled with finding the right balance between ‘English’ and jargon so that it is understandable to my target audience without misinterpreting facts during translation. Ongoing plans This entry has made me more aware of writing techniques and its applications. I have never written a piece about new technological developments in a lighter, more informal manner before and it has made me realise there is an elegance to public writing. You can write with authority without being too dry and clinical.
An article can be grammatically correct but lack flair and individualism. My aim for my future scholastic and professional career is to experiment with different types of writing and be more flexible in my writing style.
Reference List: Blog entry: Australian Museum. (n. d. ) Pain-free vaccination enough to make you cry. Retrieved from http://eureka. australianmuseum. net. au/B1299C70-7778-11E0-A87E005056B06558? DISPLAYENTRY=true Fox, M. (2012, 10 August). Needle-free vaccines: How about a patch instead? NBC News. Retrieved 16 October 2012 from http://www. msnbc. msn.com/id/48707810/ns/health-childrens_health/t/needle-free-vaccines-how-about-patch-instead/#. UH-f75iT98E Mandal, A. (2011).
Needle-free nanopatch vaccine delivery system. News Medical. Retrieved from http://www. news-medical. net/news/20110803/Needle-free-nanopatch-vaccine-delivery-system. aspx Sherwood, C. H. (2010). No more big needles? Pain-free vaccine in the works. Retrieved from http://www. smartplanet. com/blog/pure-genius/no-more-big-needles-pain-free-vaccine-in-the-works/4269 Smith, R. (2010, July 19).
Needle free jab developed to beat injection phobia. The Telegraph.. Retrieved 16 October 2012 from http://www.telegraph. co. uk/health/healthnews/7897102/Needle-free-jab-developed-to-beat-injection-phobia. html Exegesis: Banks, M. A. (2007). Blogging Heroes: Interviews with 30 of the World’s Top Bloggers. Indianapolis : John Wiley & Sons Johnston, J. & Zawawi, C. (Eds) (2009).
Public Relations: Theory and Practice. Sydney : Allen & Unwin Mahoney, J. (2008). Public Relations Writing in Australia. Melbourne : Oxford Newsom, D. & Haynes, J. (2007). Public Relations Writing: Form & Style. California : Cengage Learning Redish, J. (2012). Letting go of the words: Writing web content that works. Massachusetts : Elsevier.