Many Americans avoid the flu shot for a number of different reasons. Some believe they’re healthy enough, so they think they don’t need it and others just don’t like needles. For those who fall in the latter category, you'll be pleased to know that there may soon be a less painful alternative.

The new option is a patch, which looks like a small, prickly Band-Aid, and doesn’t involve the often-dreaded needle used during the traditional flu vaccine. In a clinical trial on humans, researchers found the patch was as effective as the needle in protecting against the seasonal influenza.

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“Despite the recommendation of the universal flu vaccination, influenza continues to be a major cause of illness leading to significant morbidity and mortality,” study author Dr. Nadine Rouphael said in a statement.

The study, published in the medical journal The Lancet, involved 100 healthy participants, aged 18-49, who had not received the flu vaccine during the 2014 to 2015 flu season. They were randomly assigned to one of four groups: vaccination by the patch via a health care provider; vaccination by the patch through self-administration; vaccination with a shot from a health care provider; or a placebo patch given by a health care provider. Rouphael and her colleagues' findings revealed the patches, lined with dissolvable “microneedles,” were safe and didn’t cause any serious side effects.

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One of the reasons the patch technology was developed was to encourage more people to get vaccines, study author Dr. Mark Prausnitz explained.

“Traditionally, if you get an influenza vaccine you need to visit a health care professional who will administer the vaccine using a hypodermic needle. The vaccine is stored in the refrigerator, and the used needle must be disposed of in a safe manner,” he said. “With the microneedle patch you could pick it up at the store and take it home, put it on your skin for a few minutes, peel it off and dispose of it safely, because the microneedles have dissolved away.”

The patch, which took years to develop, was created by researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and was studied at Emory University’s Hope Clinic in Decatur, Georgia.

More research must be conducted before the patch is available to the public. Next, the researchers intend to follow-up with a phase II clinical trial involving a larger group of participants.

Those older than 6 months should receive an annual flu vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the 2014 to 2015 flu season, less than half of those who should get vaccinated actually did.

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