Blog | Saturday, October 31, 2009

The vaccine that went away.


You could almost think of it as part of the positive publication bias that almost all conference session are about things we do have, whether they're diseases, drugs, or dilemmas.

The IDSA session "Why is there no vaccine for Lyme disease?" bucked that trend. Experts reviewed why the Lymerix vaccine (on the market from 98-02) didn't work out. Problems included that the vaccine wasn't approved for kids, who are one of the highest risk groups, and it required multiple shots to acheive good (80%) effectiveness. Because of these factors (and others), the CDC gave it an underwhelming recommendation and uptake was limited. Protest, on the other hand, was serious and involved class action lawsuits claiming an association with arthritis that was never proven by the evidence.

Therefore, it's not surprising that no manufacturer has come up with a new vaccine, the experts said, but it is a "public health disaster" according to Stanley Plotkin, MD. Parts of the U.S. (like the Northeast) have a high prevalence of Lyme disease and residents who could benefit from a vaccine. Some are so eager for a vaccine that they've asked vets to give them the USDA-approved dog vaccine, Greg Poland reported.

Yet the only work on a Lyme disease vaccine (which hasn't gotten as far as human testing yet) is being done in Europe by Baxter. Europeans are less hostile to the concept and public attitude is really the factor that will determine whether the U.S. ever gets a vaccine, the experts concluded. "At least with Lyme disease, the advocacy groups are a lot more influential than we are," said CDC's C. Ben Beard. "Without their support, it's doubtful that vaccination would be successful."