Researchers in the Netherlands are developing "virtually painless" injections without needles in what they hope is a breakthrough that will ease fear and encourage vaccinations.
The "Bubble Gun" uses a laser to push tiny droplets through the outer layer of the skin.
David Fernandez Rivas, of Twente University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, developed the method.
The process is quicker than a mosquito bite and "should not cause pain" because nerve endings in the skin are not touched, he said, though this will be studied further.
"We do that by accelerating small droplets of liquid that penetrate in the superficial layer of the skin and this has many advantages. The first one is removing the fear. Additionally, we contaminate a lot by the needles that are used and our immune system works very well when you inject into these superficial layers of the skin."
Henk Schenk offers therapy to help those suffering acutely from trypanophobia - or fear of needles.
It's more common than you might think, he says. Roughly one in five Dutch people suffer, and COVID has brought the phobia to the fore.
"During the pandemic people akre confronted with restrictions, and you see that a lot of people who had been able to avoid it are now up against the wall. People who need to get the COVID-19 vaccine are an important group for me this year."
The Bubble Gun could take one to three years to become available to the general public, depending on the progress of research and regulatory issues.
An application for funding to begin human testing with volunteers is expected to be submitted this month, Rivas said.
A new start-up company will collaborate with the pharmaceutical industry, he said, to test and market the Bubble Gun.