Lyme Disease vaccine trials to be held soon "near" Lyme

·4 min read

Aug. 5—I'm old enough to have worked for more than a few publishers here at The Day, but I have to say that one of my favorites was my first, the late Deane C. Avery, a genuine Connecticut Yankee.

Avery, who sagely focused all his direct thinking and simple wisdom at the basics of journalism, was quick to send missives to the newsroom, yanked from his old Royal typewriter.

I remember one missive chastised a reporter for writing, back in the early days of the understanding of a new ailment, Lyme Disease, that the tick-borne illness was discovered "near" Lyme, Connecticut.

No, Avery wrote in his correction to the newsroom, probably with a few of his usual expletives, it was discovered in, not near Lyme.

I recalled Avery's pique recently in corresponding with some Pfizer corporate spokespeople about the company's proposed Lyme disease vaccine, a partnership with French vaccine maker Valneva, which is entering its third phase of clinical trials.

It turns out, a Pfizer spokesperson wrote, one of the mobile units catering to vaccine trial participants, will be based not in Lyme, but near Lyme, in Old Saybrook.

Other Connecticut mobile sites will be in New London, Norwich and Wilton.

I couldn't coax much more information about the local trials out of the Pfizer spokespersons, who would only refer me to a broad description of the new phase of the trials, scheduled to start next week, on a government web site, clinicaltrials.gov.

The trials, according to the site, are meant to last until December 2024 and enroll 18,000 participants, who will receive three doses and a booster of either the vaccine or a placebo.

The mobile clinics are presumably to be stationed in communities with a high incidence of Lyme Disease, although I couldn't get the Pfizer spokespeople to say that.

It turns out there is a lot of public information available about trial sites out of Connecticut, where the drug makers' partners in the trial have been reaching out to communities and explaining in the local press how people can become involved and participate.

Those include communities like Block Island, Martha's Vineyard and coastal Maine, where mobile clinics locations and contract information is being made widely available.

The only thing I could get from Pfizer about Connecticut residents participating was a link to a study web site, which, when I filled it out, said it is too early for me to volunteer.

The pharmaceutical press is reporting that a Pfizer vaccine could eventually make it to market by 2025. It is part of new scientific approaches to Lyme Disease, including a vaccine study at Yale University, as the rate of infections continues to grow exponentially.

The Lyme Disease vaccine development also comes at a time when Covid-19 vaccines have energized anti-vaccine movements. And Lyme vaccine advocates are wary about the latest effort, given the failure of a vaccine, LYMErix, developed some 20 years ago.

Unproven concerns about side effects and worries about liability forced maker GlaxoSmithKline to withdraw the drug from the market, after a lackluster start in terms of profitability.

One thing which impeded success of the original vaccine was the still-obscure nature of the disease, which at the time seemed confined mostly to hikers and people spending sports time in wooded areas.

It was once tagged the "yuppie vaccine."

Lyme Disease, of course, has since developed a much larger footprint, here in the United States and abroad. Its rapid spread is sure to make a rollout of a second vaccine much more successful than the first, decades ago.

Indeed, it's discovery in Lyme in 1975, a strange arthritis-like ailment amongst several Lyme children, led to a Yale study that found 51 similar cases study near Lyme, in Lyme, Old Lyme and East Haddam.

The discoveries, which publisher Avery would remind us put little Lyme on the map, in not such a good way, were outlined in a warning letter in August 1976 from Douglas Lloyd, Connecticut commissioner of public health.

"The seasonal and geographic distribution of cases and the association with a skin lesion suggest that a virus carried by a biting insect may be responsible for this disease," Lloyd wrote then.

More than 45 years later, the little town of Lyme is known worldwide for something we'd all like to avoid.

Hopefully, the people of Lyme, where it all started, might find their way to a study meant to help bring it all to an end.

This is the opinion of David Collins

d.collins@theday.com