Dr. Stanley Plotkin, a prominent virologist and an emeritus professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvaniahas blasted the medical community for its failure to deliver a Lyme vaccine for people.“Your dog can be vaccinated against the tick-borne Lyme disease, but you can’t. And it’s long past time for that to change.”
In a recent editorial for New England Journal of Medicine, Plotkin called the absence of a current Lyme disease vaccine “the worst recent failure to use an effective vaccine” (though he notes that complete HPV immunization runs a close second for that “dubious honor”). It does not have a high mortality rate, but the complications, need for antibiotics, risk of chronic Lyme Disease and overall misery of the disease justifies finding better prevention methods than are currently available.
According to Plotkin the LYMErix vaccine (approved by the FDA in 1998 and pulled 3 years later) failed due to bad sales. However, another more frightening reason for the vaccine’s failure was the eventual realization that the vaccine seemed to be causing Lyme symptoms in the very people it was supposed to protect.
Plotkin disagrees. “I’m not one who discards the idea that because of immunologic responses to the pathogen, there could be long-term consequences. What I don’t understand is why people would be against prevention of the bite and the consequences because I think there’s no real evidence that the vaccine would cause the same problems as the infection. If one is worried about the infection, obviously preventing it is better than trying to treat it.”
Plotkin has had personal experience with Lyme as his son collapsed Lyme carditis when he was 39 years old. Thankfully he was treated successfully with antibiotics (and a pacemaker) but Plotkin feels it could have been averted with a vaccine.
According to Wikipedia: Plotkin has developed many vaccines, including the rubella vaccine, RA27/3 strain, developed during his time at Wistar and now exclusively used in the United States and throughout the world. He also developed experimental vaccines against cytomegalovirus, polio, and varicella and collaborated with former Wistar scientists Hilary Koprowski and Tadeusz Wiktor on a vaccine against rabies and with H. Fred Clark and Paul Offit on another against rotavirus.
Over the course of his career he has served as senior assistant surgeon with the Epidemic Intelligence Service, United States Public Health Service; director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; associate chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania; and medical and scientific director of Aventis Pasteur. In 2005, he joined the Dynavax board of directors.
Plotkin’s professional awards include the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.(2005); the Sabin Foundation Medal (2002); the French Legion Medal of Honor (1998); the Clinical Virology Award, Pan American Group for Rapid Viral Diagnosis (1995); the Distinguished Physician Award, Pediatric Infectious Disease Society (1993); the Bruce Medal of the American College of Physicians (1987); and the Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence (2013-14).
Plotkin clearly does not believe in chronic Lyme disease and seems to discount all of the evidence to the contrary. We all agree that there should be a vaccine but when the bacteria is so poorly understood it seems that caution is a good thing.