SINGAPORE - Avoiding vaccines because needles scare you?
There is now an alternative - injections which are needle-free.
A handful of doctors here have bought a kit which allows most vaccines to be propelled into the skin or muscle by a high speed jet of air instead.
Dr Erwin Kay, who charges $10 more for the needle-free option, has had more than 50 takers since he acquired it earlier this year.
The majority of these patients are infants and toddlers who go to the clinic for their childhood vaccination.
He said: "Some kids see a needle and start to cry. It's quite painful to see them in such distress."
Depending on the type of vaccine, there might still be some pain. But it does not seem to affect children the same way a needle does, added Dr Kay.
There is also a practical advantage to the needle-less jab. It diffuses the vaccine so the liquid does not accumulate in one spot in the injection area.
Some vaccines have to be injected into the muscle, while others target the skin or just below that. There are four different syringes that can be used with the needle-less injection that determine how deep the vaccine will go.
For vaccines that need to go just below the skin, the use of a needle can be tricky. But with the needle-free kit, even a beginner will not make a mistake, said Dr Kay.
These kits have been available in the United States for years, but have been approved here only recently.
Another GP, Dr Kevin Kwok, who has been testing out the needle-free jabs, both on patients and himself, said: "Across the board, everybody thought it was less painful."
He had an eight-year-old special-needs patient who is terrified of needles and would "scream and melt down" when she sees one. But she had no problems with the new system.
Dr Kwok said it even helped adults whose muscles tense up with the approach of a needle, making it even more painful.
With the kit, they were relaxed.
The paediatric unit at the National University Hospital is also trying it out, but have yet to decide if it wants to buy it.
A spokesman for the Health Sciences Authority said the first model to get approved was in 2012 "for human growth hormone drug products and is intended for home use by patients authorised by their physicians to self-inject".
Another two, including the Biojet model which Dr Kay uses, were approved only at the end of last year, and are for use by both doctors as well as patients who do self-injection.
Biojet sells its starter kit at $2,500 for the "pistol", 100 disposable syringes and 20 gas cartridges, each of which can be used for 10 to 15 injections. But the gun comes free with the purchase of 2,000 syringes at $3 each.
The other brand, Injex, has yet to price its product.
This article was first published on June 1, 2014.
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