New Lyme Disease Vaccine on the Horizon

By Josh BoydMarch 24, 20211 Comment

It appears that many avid outdoorsmen will soon face the question of whether or not to be vaccinated. However, this vaccine is not the same as that which has been the topic of discussion for the better part of a year. Instead, the vaccine in question is reported to prevent the transmission of tick-borne Lyme Disease to humans.

According to the CDC, nearly half a million cases of Lyme Disease are reported on an annual basis. Those who spend a substantial amount of their time outdoors, such as hunters, make up a significant number of these cases.

Now, a new vaccine intent upon preventing the spread of Lyme Disease to humans is in the early stages of clinical testing. If proven successful, this vaccine is slated to become available in the Spring of 2023.

Would you take a vaccine designed to protect you from Lyme Disease?

A Decade’s Long Quest

For a decade, Dr. Mark Klempner of Massachusetts Biologics at the UMASS Medical School has been attempting to unlock the secret to combating Lyme Disease. This is a quest that was recently backed by a $1-million investment on behalf of the state of Massachusetts. 

With additional funding waiting in the wings, Dr. Klempner developed a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is said to provide one’s system with the appropriate antibodies, to prevent the uptake of Lyme Disease following exposure. This is unlike many “standard” vaccines, which spur a recipient’s body into producing such antibodies on its own.

However, this is hardly the first time that a Lyme Disease vaccine has been developed. A prior vaccine, offered some twenty years earlier, was pulled from the market, due to numerous reports of adverse reactions following its administration. Dr. Klempner applied lessons learned during the development of this prior vaccine, when creating his own pre-exposure prophylaxis. 

“Since we understood the mechanism of protection there, we were able to go right after the molecule that we thought would be productive. The clinical trial is finally here, we started it, and it’s a novel way to approach prevention of Lyme Disease, and we’re highly hopeful it will be safe and effective.”

Traditionally, hunters and other outdoorsmen have been extremely susceptible to tick-borne illness.

What Lies Ahead

As with any newly developed pharmaceutical product, Dr. Klemner’s vaccine must achieve full FDA approval before coming to market. The first step in this process was recently completed, when the FDA greenlighted the vaccine for use in Phase 1 clinical trials.

These trials officially began during the final days of February, when a total of 66 subjects received their initial vaccination. Each of these subjects will be closely monitored, in a bid to record any possible reactions that might take place.

This trial was conducted in Lincoln, Nebraska. The site itself was selected as the hub of these trials, due to its relatively low number of annually reported Lyme Disease cases. This provided scientists with a higher level of assurance that all Lyme Disease exposure would have taken place solely within a laboratory setting, as opposed to through prior uncontrolled exposure in the field.

At last report, Phase 1 clinical trials were expected to continue through the remainder of the 2021 tick season. If satisfactory results are achieved, approval for further testing will be granted.

In many states, tick season and early archery season run parallel to one another.

The End Of Lyme Disease?

For the unfortunate, a tick bite can prove debilitating, should Lyme Disease be spread in the process. This dreaded ailment has left many outdoorsmen in a feeble state while waiting out its numerous symptoms. However, if all continues as proposed, we might soon find ourselves living in the post-Lyme Disease era. 

In any event, those wishing to be vaccinated against Lyme Disease would require reimmunization every year, as a single dose of this proposed drug is said to provide approximately nine-months of immunity. With that being said, the question remains. Will you be lining up for this new vaccine if, and when, it becomes available?

Josh Boyd
Josh is a die-hard hunter, free-lance writer, and a dedicated proponent of all areas of conservation. His main species of outdoor pursuit are whitetail deer, eastern wild turkeys, and waterfowl. Above all other outdoor pursuits, he relishes his time 20 feet in a tree with bow in hand, chasing Kentucky whitetails every fall. He is the president of the Barren River Branch of QDMA and a committee member for the KY Three Rivers Chapter of Whitetails Unlimited. He resides in Bowling Green, Kentucky with his wife and two children.
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