TOUCHED BY LYME: “Rehashing” LYMErix vaccine? Yes, let’s do that
Many in the Lyme community have followed the proceedings of the federal Tick-Borne Diseases Working Group closely. As I watched the webcast of the May 10 meeting, I was generally heartened by what I saw. Subcommittees on different subject areas gave their reports to the Working Group. It seemed to embody what the Working Group was supposed to be—stakeholders with a variety of viewpoints examining all relevant information on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
Alas, my assessment of things changed drastically when it came time for the vaccine subcommittee’s report.
As presented at the meeting, it appears that this subcommittee paid no attention whatsoever to the Lyme community’s valid concerns about past safety problems with the LYMErix vaccine, and fears that such problems would be repeated with any new vaccines now in the pipeline.
When the presenter was questioned about this by Working Group member Patricia Smith, he was very dismissive. He said something along the lines of “there’s no reason to rehash the past. Let’s just move forward with the vaccine.”
Actually, I think re-visiting the past is precisely what’s needed here. With author Pamela Weintraub’s kind permission, LymeDisease.org has re-published the vaccine chapter from her groundbreaking book “Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic.”
She discusses the now-infamous Dearborn conference of 1994, during which a small group of scientists changed the way Lyme disease is diagnosed—to make it easier to secure FDA approval for their then-new vaccine, called LYMErix.
She also explains the problems that ensued once LYMErix was made available to the public. (Spoiler alert: It appeared to GIVE many people symptoms of Lyme disease, and a lawsuit was in the making. In response, the company pulled LYMErix off the market, citing “poor sales.”)
I urge you to read this important background today, if possible. Then tune in tomorrow (May 15) for the next meeting of the Working Group, to see how they deal with this explosive topic.
TOUCHED BY LYME is written by Dorothy Kupcha Leland, LymeDisease.org’s Vice-president and Director of Communications. She is co-author of When Your Child Has Lyme Disease: A Parent’s Survival Guide. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .