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Background: This is an update of a Cochrane Review first published in 2015. The conclusions have not changed. Hypodermic needles of different sizes (gauges and lengths) can be used for vaccination procedures. The gauge (G) refers to the outside diameter of the needle tubing. The higher the gauge number, the smaller the diameter of the needle (e.g. a 23 G needle is 0.6 mm in diameter, whereas a 25 G needle is 0.5 mm in diameter). Many vaccines are recommended for injection into muscle (intramuscularly), although some are delivered subcutaneously (under the skin) and intradermally (into skin). Choosing an appropriate length and gauge of a needle may be important to ensure that a vaccine is delivered to the appropriate site and produces the maximum immune response while causing the least possible harm. Guidelines conflict regarding the sizes of needles that should be used for vaccinating children and adolescents. Objectives: To assess the effects of using needles of different sizes for administering vaccines to children and adolescents on vaccine immunogenicity (the ability of the vaccine to elicit an immune response), procedural pain, and other reactogenicity events (adverse events following vaccine administration). Search methods: We updated our searches of CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, and CINAHL to October 2017. We also searched proceedings of vaccine conferences and two trials registers. Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials evaluating the effects of using hypodermic needles of any gauge or length to administer any type of vaccine to people aged from birth to 24 years. Data collection and analysis: Three review authors independently extracted trial data and assessed the risk of bias. We contacted trial authors for additional information. We rated the quality of evidence using the GRADE system. Main results: We included five trials involving 1350 participants in the original review. The updated review identified no new trials. The evidence from two small trials (one trial including infants and one including adolescents) was insufficient to allow any definitive statements to be made about the effects of the needles evaluated in the trials on vaccine immunogenicity and reactogenicity. The remaining three trials (1135 participants) contributed data to comparisons between 25 G 25 mm, 23 G 25 mm, and 25 G 16 mm needles. These trials included infants predominantly aged from two to six months undergoing intramuscular vaccination in the anterolateral thigh using the World Health Organization (WHO) injection technique (skin stretched flat, needle inserted at a 90° angle and up to the needle hub in healthy infants). The vaccines administered were combination vaccines containing diphtheria, tetanus, and whole-cell pertussis antigens (DTwP). In some trials, the vaccines also contained Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTwP-Hib) and hepatitis B (DTwP-Hib-Hep B) antigen components. Primary outcomes Incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases: No trials reported this outcome. Procedural pain and crying: Using a wider gauge 23 G 25 mm needle may slightly reduce procedural pain (low-quality evidence) and probably leads to a slight reduction in the duration of crying time immediately after vaccination (moderate-quality evidence) compared with a narrower gauge 25 G 25 mm needle (one trial, 320 participants). The effects are probably not large enough to be clinically relevant. Secondary outcomes Immune response: There is probably little or no difference in immune response, defined in terms of the proportion of seroprotected infants, between use of 25 G 25 mm, 23 G 25 mm, or 25 G 16 mm needles to administer a series of three doses of a DTwP-Hib vaccine at ages two, three, and four months (moderate-quality evidence, one trial, numbers of participants in analyses range from 309 to 402. The immune response to the pertussis antigen was not measured). Severe and non-severe local reactions: 25 mm needles (either 25 G or 23 G) probably lead to fewer severe and non-severe local reactions after DTwP-Hib vaccination compared with 25 G 16 mm needles (moderate-quality evidence, one trial, 447 to 458 participants in analyses). We estimate that one fewer infant will experience a severe local reaction (extensive redness and swelling) after the first vaccine dose for every 25 infants vaccinated with the longer rather than the shorter needle (number needed to treat for an additional beneficial outcome (NNTB) with a 25 G 25 mm needle: 25 (95% confidence interval (CI) 15 to 100); NNTB with a 23 G 25 mm needle: 25 (95% CI 17 to 100)). We estimate that one fewer infant will experience a non-severe local reaction (any redness, swelling, tenderness, or hardness (composite outcome)) at 24 hours after the first vaccine dose for every 5 or 6 infants vaccinated with a 25 mm rather than a 16 mm needle (NNTB with a 25 G 25 mm needle: 5 (95% CI 4 to 10); NNTB with a 23 G 25 mm needle: 6 (95% CI 4 to 13)). The results are similar after the second and third vaccine doses. Using a narrow gauge 25 G 25 mm needle may produce a small reduction in the incidence of local reactions after each dose of a DTwP vaccine compared with a wider gauge 23 G 25 mm needle, but the effect estimates are imprecise (low-quality evidence, two trials, 100 to 459 participants in analyses). Systemic reactions: The comparative effects of 23 G 25 mm, 25 G 25 mm, and 25 G 16 mm needles on the incidence of postvaccination fever and other systemic events such as drowsiness, loss of appetite, and vomiting are uncertain due to the very low quality of the evidence. Authors' conclusions: Using 25 mm needles (either 23 G or 25 G) for intramuscular vaccination procedures in the anterolateral thigh of infants using the WHO injection technique probably reduces the occurrence of local reactions while achieving a comparable immune response to 25 G 16 mm needles. These findings are applicable to healthy infants aged two to six months receiving combination DTwP vaccines with a reactogenic whole-cell pertussis antigen component. These vaccines are predominantly used in low- and middle-income countries. The applicability of the findings to vaccines with acellular pertussis components and other vaccines with different reactogenicity profiles is uncertain.
Beirne, P. V., Hennessy, S., Cadogan, S. L., Shiely, F., Fitzgerald, T., & Macleod, F. (2018, August 9). Needle size for vaccination procedures in children and adolescents. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley and Sons Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD010720.pub3