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Paper vaccinations records could be replaced by quantum dots and just as easily scanned. Stock photo from Pixabay

Introducing subcutaneous vaccine passports

Medical information can be stored under the skin with the help of microneedles.

Published: November 15, 2021, 11:11 am

    The vaccination certificate of the future will get under your skin according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A colour pattern with the vaccination dose is injected into the skin and not visible to the naked eye. The colour contains quantum dots no larger than a few nanometers.

    In December 2019, Robert S. Langer and his team developed and patented a technique whereby transdermal patches could be used to label people with invisible ink in order to store medical and other information subcutaneously. The research “was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research”.

    When the quantum dots are illuminated by UV light, an electron in the quantum dot can be excited to a state of higher energy. In vitro studies, based on cell cultures, on quantum dots suggest that their toxicity may derive from multiple factors including their physicochemical characteristics.

    Kevin McHugh, a member of the team, explained however that the technique enabled the rapid inspection of vaccination history.

    The researchers claim the invisible form of the vaccination card is primarily intended for regions where vaccination cards are easily lost and the equipment needed by authorities to read the information encapsulated in the arm is not expensive. There are already smartphones with a built-in infrared camera that come standard.

    “Because many people do not make sure to get a booster vaccination in time, 1,5 million people could die in these regions every year, said former MIT graduate student McHugh. Years ago, McHugh and other MIT researchers set out to develop a method to create a “safe replacement” for paper vaccination records.

    “In many third world countries, getting vaccinated regularly is a real challenge,” says Ana Jaklenec from MIT. “Because there is a lack of data on when children were vaccinated against which disease.” So far, the innovative process has only been tested in animal experiments. The researchers vaccinated rats against polio. At the same time, they gave them the color code.

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