Allergy vaccines are generally used to treat the most common allergies, particularly conditions such as hay fever or house-dust mite allergy. Allergy vaccination has also proven to be an effective treatment against allergies to insect stings, particularly bee and wasp stings, which can be fatal in severe cases. Allergy vaccination is performed using a series of carefully graduated doses, starting with a very small dose, which increases progressively. This approach is a sound and safe strategy, but can involve a prolonged course (e.g. sometimes up to 18-20 injections). These long, less 'patient-friendly' courses can be reduced in length by adopting two methods.
Firstly, the allergenic potential of an allergen may be substantially reduced by chemical modification. The allergen is then termed an allergoid.
Secondly, an allergen or allergoid may be adsorbed onto an inert carrier, termed a depot, which is known to have the effect of providing a slow release of the material.
Using both the above measures has allowed allergy vaccination courses to be completed with six injections or less.
Some courses of allergy vaccination are needle-free and taken by mouth (termed oral or sublingual). With pain-free administration and palatable fruity flavours, these oral allergy vaccines are more patient-friendly than ever. This comparatively new treatment method is obviously attractive, yet many clinicians still need convincing as to their effectiveness before they dispense with conventional injection therapy altogether.