What Ever Happened to the Lyme Disease Vaccine?

A Lyme disease vaccine, LYMErix, was approved by the FDA in 1998.

Unfortunately, the manufacturer stopped making it a few years later.

What Ever Happened to the Lyme Disease Vaccine?

Although Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial infection, the bacteria is transmitted to people through tick bites. Not surprisingly, the original Lyme disease vaccine didn’t attack ticks, it attacked the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria in those ticks, before they could cause an infection.

A new Lyme disease vaccine would be welcomed in the 14 states where the majority of Lyme disease cases are reported.
A new Lyme disease vaccine would be welcomed in the 14 states where the majority of Lyme disease cases are reported.

After three doses, LYMErix was found to be 78% effective at preventing Lyme disease.

Unfortunately, unverified reports of vaccine side effects, especially arthritis, were hyped by the media and anti-vaccine groups and led folks to avoid the vaccine.

In their article, “Concerns Grow Over Reactions To Lyme Shots,” The New York Times even gave equal time to doctors from the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, who push the idea that folks need treatment for chronic Lyme disease.

Another vaccine, ImuLyme, didn’t even bother applying for FDA licensure at the time.

“In 2002, in response to low vaccine uptake, public concern about adverse effects, and class action lawsuits, SmithKline Beecham withdrew the vaccine from the market despite the fact that both pre- and post-licensure safety data showed no difference in the incidence of chronic arthritis between those who received the vaccine and those who had not.”

The History of the Lyme Disease Vaccine

Interestingly, a more current article in The New York Times, “Lyme Disease Is Spreading Fast. Why Isn’t There a Vaccine?,” doesn’t mention the media’s role in bringing down the vaccine.

“But the company took it off the market less than four years later, citing low sales, amid lawsuits from patients who said the vaccine caused severe arthritis and other symptoms… The high cost of the vaccine and confusion over who should get it and how many doses were needed didn’t help its prospects.”

Lyme Disease Is Spreading Fast. Why Isn’t There a Vaccine?

And that’s likely why we continue to see false balance in their reporting, as we see them interview a group who is “skeptical about the new vaccine.”

A new vaccine that hasn’t even made it into phase II trials yet!

“Whatever you think about Andrew Wakefield, the real villains of the MMR scandal are the media.”

Ben Goldacre on The MMR story that wasn’t

The media’s role in scaring folks about vaccines isn’t new.

Unfortunately, the impact of the media on the anti-vaccine movement has been felt far beyond Andrew Wakefield, the MMR vaccine and measles outbreaks.

“As we ask how to weigh public health benefits of interventions against potential risks (notably incurred by identifiable individuals), the LYMErix case illustrates that media focus and swings of public opinion can pre-empt the scientific weighing of risks and benefits in determining success or failure.”

The Lyme vaccine: a cautionary tale

Hopefully, folks have learned their lesson though. How many people have developed Lyme disease since LYMErix was withdrawn from the market? After all, Lyme disease should still be a vaccine-preventable disease.

More on the Lyme Disease Vaccine

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