Researchers Make Progress On Zika Vaccine

REUTERS/Josue Decavele

Alexis Bowen Contributor
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The Vaccine Center at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia announced Tuesday it has taken a large leap toward developing a Zika vaccine. After performing extensive testing over the course of nine months, the research lab believes it has created a vaccine that could combat the virus.

The team at the Wistar Institute has been collaborating with Inovio Pharmaceuticals over this nine-month period, the same team it has worked with in past vaccination developments.

The next step in testing the vaccine will be to hold a clinical trial, possibly in the next few weeks. The trial will only consist of the vaccine itself to see what side effects it could cause.

The participants of the trial will not be exposed to any form of the Zika virus, as that will come in later steps of the vaccination testing process, according to KRIS-TV.

The announcement of the creation of such a vaccine comes in the wake of the rejection for federal funding of $1.1 billion proposed by Senate Republicans to fight the Zika virus.

Senate Democrats refused to pass the bill due to stipulations that included alterations to Planned Parenthood, Ebola funding, the Clean Water Act and the cutting of veterans funding. The bill also included changes to the use of the Confederate flag.

In his most recent statement regarding the issue, Majority Whip John Cornyn said that the rejection of the Senate bill was a play of partisan politics as Senate Republicans produced the $1.1 billion that the Democrats had desired.

Sen. Cornyn said, “If the Democrats want to gamble on the future health of the next generation, I want no part of it. Zika poses a real and immediate threat to our country, particularly in places like Texas where I come from, and to ignore the devastating impact of this virus is irresponsible and heartless.”

States along the Gulf Coast are especially at risk of having men and women contract the virus as cases have already been reported in Puerto Rico.

Texas and Florida in particular will likely have problems in the future as Healthcare IT News has reported  that both states opted out of Medicaid expansion. Texas has already cut Medicaid funding for therapy programs and therapy for the disabled.

These programs may become much more necessary for children born with microcephaly, shrunken heads caused by the Zika virus that result in further disabilities.

For these states, the federal funding proposed would have provided money for the Centers for Disease Control to specifically target mosquito control and enhance research.

It would also allow for state targeted services that would greatly enhance states’ ability to fight the Zika virus.

Federal funding would have gone to the National Institutes of Health to support pre-clinical development of vaccines, and the State Department/USAID, among other government agencies.

Currently, most states at risk of having citizens contract Zika are moving their resources to control the mosquito population. Doctors and researchers continue to tell the public to wear mosquito repellent, as it is mosquitoes that transmit the virus.

Florida and Texas have also engaged in a media blitz of updates about the virus and the dangers it poses especially to pregnant women.

The development and continued testing of the Zika vaccine by the Vaccine Center at the Wistar Institute will continue throughout the year.

The Institute, in conjunction with the team at Inovio Pharmaceuticals, hopes to have completed the vaccine testing and put the vaccine on the market by the end of this year.

Due to the lack of federal funding for Zika, the possibility of a successful vaccine in Philadelphia could be states’ best hope for protecting people from Zika as it becomes ever closer to the U.S.