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Zika Vaccine Trials Move Forward as Florida Health Agencies Assert They Are Prepared for a Potential Outbreak

APR 03, 2017 | BRIAN P. DUNLEAVY
Indeed, such preventive measures may be the best protection from the effects of Zika, at least until a viable vaccine against the virus becomes available, which, despite the fact progress has been made, is still some time away. On March 31, 2017, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced that vaccinations have begun in a multi-site Phase II/IIb clinical trial of VRC705, an experimental DNA vaccine designed to protect against disease caused by Zika infection. The vaccine was developed by government scientists at NIAID, and the agency is leading the trial with the hope of enrolling at least 2490 healthy participants “in areas of confirmed or potential active mosquito-transmitted Zika infection, including the continental United States and Puerto Rico, Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico,” according to a statement.
 
“We are pleased to have advanced rapidly one of NIAID’s experimental Zika vaccines into this next stage of testing in volunteers,” NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, MD, added in the agency statement. “We expect this study will yield valuable insight into the vaccine’s safety and ability to prevent disease caused by Zika infection. A safe and effective Zika vaccine is urgently needed to prevent the often-devastating birth defects that can result from Zika virus infection during pregnancy. Evidence also is accumulating that Zika can cause a variety of health problems in adults as well. This trial marks a significant milestone in our efforts to develop countermeasures for a pandemic in progress.”
 
The novel vaccine entered early-stage human testing in 2016 “following extensive testing in animal models” and early research suggests that “the vaccine is safe and able to induce a neutralizing antibody response against Zika virus.” This is good news for those concerned about the virus’ return during the 2017 mosquito season, particularly in Florida.
 
In a statement towards assuaging fears over a potentially devastating outbreak in Florida, Dr Likos stated in during the town hall, “We believe we have a better idea of what to expect [this summer].”
 
Brian P. Duleavy is a medical writer and editor based in New York. His work has appeared in numerous healthcare-related publications. He is the former editor of Infectious Disease Special Edition.
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