Vt. research trials underway on Lyme disease vaccine

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Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 4:40 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Lyme disease has become an increasing source of concern for public health officials in Vermont in the past few years. Officials say it’s the state’s most common tickborne illness -- about 59% of black-legged ticks carry it. But help could be on the way. A Lyme disease vaccine is now on trial in Vermont and the organization running the trials is looking for more participants.

Lyme disease is running rampant in the Green Mountain State. “Vermont is number one in the country per capita and so that’s why we have a focus outreach here,” said Alexander Willis with Care Access. The Boston-based company is running vaccine trials across the East Coast and has set up a mobile site in Brattleboro and looking for Vermonters willing to participate in the study.

“We take the study into the local communities, so the advantage of that is we are able to include a much more diverse cross-section of the population,” Willis said. HE says Vermonters he’s spoken to have all shared a similar message. “It seems like everyone who came up to me, either their relative or their neighbor or they themselves have been exposed to Lyme disease.”

Which is why they’re encouraging people to get an investigational vaccine manufactured in partnership with Pfizer. The trial is for anyone that passes their pre-requisites, starting at age five. In fact, they’re looking specifically for families with heightened concern about Lyme disease impacting younger Vermonters. “It’s geared to those people who are at higher risk, and that is children, unfortunately. They’re the ones out playing in the fields, they’re the ones out rolling in the leaves,” Willis said.

The trial consists of eight check-ins over 2.5 years, with three shots spaced out over a few months and a booster after a year. “And the end point really is to be determined, because as we gather information and process the data, then decisions are made based on the data that we’re gathering now,” Willis said.

If all goes well with those doses, the long-term hope is to bring the vaccine to the FDA for approval to try and combat the nearly half a million diagnosed cases of Lyme in the U.S. each year. “Ideally, we could bring this investigational vaccine approved and to the market and bring those numbers of Lyme disease down,” Willis said.

A Health Department spokesperson Tuesday said that “a safe and effective vaccine for Lyme disease would be an important and welcome development in Vermont.”

There are also trials set to begin in Middlebury around November 12th. There is no cost to join and participants will receive some compensation.