MIT researchers have struck on a novel, and for many surely unsettling, method of keeping track of who has and hasn’t had a particular vaccination – creating an ink that can be safely embedded in the skin alongside the vaccine itself, and only visible using a special infra-red application.

The invisible “tattoo” is a pattern made up of tiny semiconducting crystals that reflect light and thus glows under infra-red light. The pattern will be delivered alongside the vaccine into the skin via hi-tech dissolvable microneedles made of a mixture of polymers and sugar.

“In areas where paper vaccination cards are often lost or do not exist at all, and electronic databases are unheard of, this technology could enable the rapid and anonymous detection of patient vaccination history to ensure that every child is vaccinated,” MIT researcher Kevin McHugh said in a statement.



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